Hunter leads us up Rocky Canyon to the Boise Ridge and a great campsite he finds near Deer Point. The next morning, in spite of a warning, he decides to brave Daggett Creek.
“Sorry, Hunter,” I’d said three weeks ago when our long drive toward an Indian Hot Springs camping ride ended with an unfixable flat five minutes down the trail. As we made the disappointing drive home, I promised him an as-soon-as-possible make-up ride.
My mom is in town for Brenna’s kindergarten and Kayla’s high school graduations so instead of a long trip, we’ve come just fifteen minutes to the edge of town to ride up Rocky Canyon to camp somewhere on the ridge that should now be snow-free. Then we’ll zip home to join the festivities.
When he slipped on his riding boots that fateful day, three weeks ago, we discovered Hunter had suddenly (it seemed) outgrown them. Like his motorcycle, it’s time to go bigger.
Finding the right, next motorcycle is complicated by a growth curve that leaves him inches too short for something in the 175 to 200cc range, otherwise the logical progression. I’m pretty sure he’ll have more fun on a bike he can man-handle than something too tall so we’ve stayed with the 110 a little longer.
To invoke the phrase of every parent, it seems only days ago Hunter was begging for rides with me on the XR. We’d exit the driveway and return then circle the house a couple times — that was our big ride. It’s pretty cool that now we’re heading into the mountains for a night, each on our own motorcycle.
“Be sure to stay on the right,” I remind him. “There will probably be traffic up here.”
After pausing a moment to look back over Boise from Aldape Summit, Hunter and I continue along the ridge. We pass by a man at a wide spot with a small child seated ahead of him on his motorcycle, in the same way I once gave those little rides to Hunter, Laura and my youngest brother Jesse.¹ Following him are two young girls riding together on an ATV.
We exchange waves before I see Hunter’s helmet and teenage brain turn and lock on to the girls, preventing him from noticing the small rut ahead. He almost wipes out right there in front of them and I hope he doesn’t hear the girls giggling.
I enjoy watching Hunter learn as I follow behind him. He rides higher and higher up roadside banks where others have left tracks, what I called side-hills as a kid. I cringe a bit when he aims for the middle of every puddle, knowing they sometimes have surprises. And finally one does get him — mud and water up to his pegs, he almost doesn’t make it through.
“If you see something you want to check out,” I tell Hunter, “go for it.” He leads us down one road and then another where we find a large camp area among tall evergreens, clear and level, with sites for six or seven groups, all empty.
Our campsite is on the backside of the Bogus Basin ski runs, overlooking the Boise National Forest. “I should have brought my snowboard,” Hunter jokes.
While I set up our tent, Hunter starts a fire then collects snow in a broken bottle to watch it melt.
It is strange to camp somewhere that has cell service. I text Hunter’s mom to let her know hot dog roasting has commenced (and by implication, we’re safely camped).
“Can I ride my motorcycle or no,” Hunter asks after dinner. I’ve noticed the “or no” he adds with descending tone to every question lately. While he can draw our ire by repeatedly making the same denied request, like most kids, are we leading him to assume rejection?
“Yeah Hunter, you can ride anytime you want out here,” I answer enthusiastically. This is the quintessential place for it.
We didn’t bring jackets so as a cold night wind begins to gust, we zip and clip into our motorcycle armor. It adds to our masculinity.
Previous camping-folk have left ample materials for fire experiments Hunter dutifully carries out. Does a clear bottle glow the same way a brown bottle does when heated? The answer is yes. Is a motorcycle glove insulation enough to grab glowing metal? I already the knew the answer to that one. Now Hunter does too.
Hunter uses a rock to shape molten glass into a “present for mom.” It’s a good trick, I think, to characterize reckless activities as mom-gifts. I blew up a lot of stuff that I never gave to my mom.
After a nice sleep, Hunter gets our fire going again and I break out the cinnamon english muffins, still on sale at Albertsons. Hunter seems to lack confidence in my muffin warming strategy.
Hunter eventually realizes he’ll need to take matters into his own hands if he wants his muffin warm. Even so, my efforts went slightly better than my campfire pizza plan.¹
After two muffins and two oatmeal packets from my emergency rations, Hunter is off to explore again. He seems surprised when I suggest he continue down the ridge a ways to see what’s there.
While Hunter is off riding, I brew more coffee (okay, pour powder in hot water), put some music on the phone and jot down a few notes for the eventual write-up. No hurries and no worries. It’s very peaceful.
I hear Hunter’s engine echoing from the far hill and rise to see him stopping on the road. I wave but I doubt he can see me. We’re just dots to each other.
“Jason!” I hear the faint yell.
“Hi Hunter,” I yell back. I don’t know if he hears me.
“I found a better campsite,” he announces when he rolls back into camp. “It has a view over the whole city.”
“Of course,” I answer. It’s a law of nature that no matter how far you go, the best campsite was just a little bit farther.
“Should I go on reserve?” Hunter asks as we’re breaking camp. His motor sputtered a little.
“No,” I answer. I assume he’s just left the choke on or something. I don’t know what range the TTR has and I want to be positive about when reserve becomes essential, if it does.
“Do you want to ride toward Bogus or head back?” I ask.
“Head back,” Hunter answers.
I give him the lead again and am surprised when, just a few miles down the road, he sees the Daggett trailhead off the ridge and turns to follow it. So much for heading back.
“This goes down to a creek,” I caution him.
“Cool,” he says.
The trail gets more difficult and is eventually synonymous with the creek. I keep expecting Hunter to take a tumble, get upset, but no, he’s having a great time. And I am too!
The first climb out of the Daggett drainage is steep and now deeply rutted by channels of water diverted from somewhere above. One rut is four feet deep. I avoid that spot then run back down to where I told Hunter to wait and ride his 110 up. Well not actually “ride” — I run alongside it since it gets wedged in even the shallower ruts.
A second climb is equally steep with steps instead of ruts. I struggle to keep the front tire on the ground and stall the motor trying to ease the back tire over a tall root. I know I’ll be riding the 110 up this too.
Or that’s what I fully expect so I’m flabbergasted when Hunter pulls up behind me. He didn’t wait for a “good to go!” or anything. He just hit it. I’m impressed.
“I can’t believe you just rode up that!” I yell to him. I can’t tell in his helmet if he’s smiling. I hope so.
I know it would be counterproductive so I don’t caution Hunter about the exposure, the steep drop along the trail. But I think it. Be safe Hunter.
Rather than returning up the Gardiner Peak trail from Daggett, we’ve continued down to the road along Clear Creek. We’ll return by Eagleson.
“I’m going to dunk my helmet in the creek,” Hunter announces.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” The trail down was exercise for us both. We’re both hot. I rinsed my head in the creek but I’m not sure a sopping helmet liner will be nice.
“Yep,” he says.
There are a few turns to know up Eagleson so I keep the lead Hunter asked me to take when we started down Daggett.
“I just went on reserve!” he yells after my regular pause to see he’s still following goes long.
“I guess we better hurry,” I yell back while twisting open my throttle to accelerate ahead.
“Turn your motor off and coast down long hills,” I tell Hunter when we reach the ridge again. I have no idea how far the TTR can go on reserve. “When you see you’ll need power again,” I continue, “start the motor while you’re still coasting.”
“Okay,” he says.
Hunter manages his motor just as I prescribed. I want to tell him how impressed I am with his riding today. “I hope he doesn’t do something frustrating to spoil it,” I think to myself. As soon as I have the thought I feel ashamed. I’m the one who decides to be frustrated. I can’t put that on Hunter.
“My butt hurts,” Hunter yells.
“Stand up,” I yell back.
Feet from cresting the low hill above the paved lot where we left the car, the TTR sputters and dies. Reserve is gone. A couple shoves and Hunter coasts it right to the trailer. That’s almost amazing.
“It’s a good thing you coasted the times you did,” I say.
“Yeah,” he agrees with equally delighted relief.
I think I see a small smile when I say, “I am so impressed with your riding today, Hunter.”