Winter Hiking: #78 Dry Creek Trail (Boise, Idaho)
Note: This is not a sponsored post, I’ve provided links to a couple of products for the convenience of the reader.
It’s the inversion time of year in Boise, and although the winter has been fairly mild so far, Colin and I are getting restless. So after the hustle and bustle of the holidays we decided to kick-start our new year with a nice 14-mile hike. Dry Creek Trail is a relatively popular trail for hikers and mountain bikers. It starts right off of Bogus Basin Road and takes a winding, hilly path up through the Boise foothills. If you’ve never been to the trailhead, it doesn’t look like anything more than a pull out for slow vehicles, but I’ve never had trouble finding it because there is always at least one car parked there.
The first 2 miles lead you on a sandy path around sandstone rocks, a couple of creek crossings and a small half-structure built from stones. After crossing a small bridge the path splits and although there are no trail markers to indicate which way is which, Shingle Creek (to the right) and Dry Creek (to the left/ continuing straight) end up connecting around the 8-mile mark, making your choice more of a preference for level of difficulty. Apparently Shingle Creek is an easier hike up as Dry Creek can get steep in some places, but overall I’ve never seen much difference in the two. A 14-mile hike is still a 14-mile hike, no matter which way you take.
From the beginning of the trail the snow was not very deep nor was it icy, making for a pleasant first two miles. Once we crossed the bridge and started on the Dry Creek Trail the snow began to get deeper but it wasn’t until we were roughly six miles in that the snow became more difficult to maneuver through. My initial thoughts when we first started were that something like YakTrax would be nice, as they would provide more stability over the somewhat slippery uphill parts of the trail. Once we were trudging through calf-high snow I was definitely thinking about snowshoes and hoping we wouldn’t have to turn around if the snow got too deep.
Luckily the snow stayed around calf-height for most of the trail, and although it made for a much slower pace that we usually take, with the aid of our poles and our unspoken resolve that this trail would not beat us, we made it up the mountain and got to the glorious downhill part of the trail.
As happy as we were to have made it there, that was actually when the hike got a little bit sketchy. What had been a steady snow mist in the lower foothills turned into a thick fog in the upper foothills, making it nearly impossible to discern one sage-covered snowy hillside from another. Making matters worse, we were both starting to feel the effects of not hiking for three months and then jumping into a difficult winter hike – let’s just say I have never felt that out of shape and the way we were complaining about our hips and knees would have put 90-year-olds to shame.
The worst of the worst happened when we lost the trail. This is a hike we’ve done multiple times, twice from the Shingle Creek side and once from the Dry Creek side – this is not an area we are unfamiliar with, but snow has a way of making everything look different. And by different I mean it all looks the same. Between the fog, our aching bones, not bringing enough snacks and feeling slightly alarmed that we weren’t exactly sure where we were, this was the moment that I felt that familiar twinge of wilderness panic.
After looking at our GPS and finding the direction that would take us back to Boise, I spotted the trail from the top of a hill. By that point we were so exhausted that looping back was a no-go, so we ended up sliding down the hill. Not my proudest moment as a backpacker, but it made me look for some specific landmarks that I’ll be making seasonal notes about to hopefully avoid any future mishaps and keep us on the trail.
Sore and tired don’t even begin to describe where we were physically at this point, but mentally we knew there was still another 2-3 hours of hiking ahead of us. So, we put our heads down and trudged/ limped our way through the last 5 mile stretch. The only sounds were of us crunching through the snow, the dogs tags jingling and an occasional groan or whimper from one of us over anything that wasn’t flat terrain. I started laughing at how ridiculous we sounded, but I honestly think that was my brain wanting to cry and my body simply not having the energy for that.
Side note: This was our first time using “Mushers Secret” on the dogs paws, and I think it made a HUGE difference over the snow. The dogs were completely fine, and Theanie even seemed to have extra energy somehow. Even though she’s from Atlanta, I think she’s always been a snow dog at heart.
When we finally finally made it back to the car the dogs immediately fell asleep. We picked up thai food on the way home and proceeded to watch TV and apply tiger balm on our poor, overworked muscles for the rest of the night. I fully expected to wake up the next morning and literally not be able to move, but you know what? I felt great. I was sore, of course, but as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning, I knew I was fine and that it was going to be a great day.
That’s the magic of Dry Creek. We forget how difficult of a trail it is, how many types of terrain it covers, and how about halfway through you start to wonder if you’ll ever see civilization again. It is the perfect way to get out of town for a day without having to sit in a car for hours. Now that we’ve hiked Dry Creek in every season, I can honestly say that with the proper equipment, good planning and a decent knowledge of the area it is a great place for a winter hike, and I look forward to many more adventures on Trail #78.