After looking at route options from Colorado through to Oregon I determined that I would be visiting Idaho for my first time. I therefore looked at my running options in the potato state. I considered paying a visit to Sawtooth National Forest, but further investigation showed that much of the forest was closed due to severe bush fires raging in the area. The next option I looked at started right in the state capital, Boise. Ridge to Rivers is a trail system covering over 130 miles, with a number of trailheads right in town. The next step was to pick a route.
As usual I looked for a challenging option. The website for the trail system separates its trail into easy, moderate and difficult so I picked out a couple of the difficult trails, looked for any commonly used routes on Strava and MapMyRun, and put together a lollipop route. All that was left was to arrive in town and slot the run into my day. Unfortunately due to the timing of my travel it would be an afternoon run, and after some time enjoying the cool temperatures of Colorado I was back into summer running.
After a quick glimpse at the trail map posted at the trailhead I headed off on my route. Then a couple of hundred yards later I turned around and returned to the map to take a photo on my phone. I had made the mistake of passing up the opportunity to do that while running in Flagstaff and ended up having to ask some mountain bikers for directions, so at least I had learned my lesson. Then I set off once again.
After running parallel to the road for a short while I turned away and started to climb one of the ridges leading away from town. Being well into summer the ridges were covered in dry grass, making for a very brown panorama. The route I had chosen would climb up a ridge, occasionally reaching the spine of a particular ridge before peeling off and heading towards another ridge. In this way I made my way from ridge to ridge, occasionally descending but spending most of my time climbing. As I looked at the trail ahead of me and spied a high peak ahead of me that still required plenty of climbing I considered the name of the trail I was on (Watchman Trail) and realised that it should have been obvious that I had selected one of the highest viewpoints.
The day was warm, I was totally exposed to the sun and I realised that I was carrying less water than would have been preferable. Therefore I started conserving my water, setting time or distance limits between sips. I knew that I had enough water to get through my run, but also knew that I would return to my car feeling very parched. I hoped that I would locate some water along my route that would allow me to refill. When I started traversing a ridge and could see that the trail would cross the creek bed below and then return on the other side I hoped that I would find at least a trickle in the creek. As I entered the shade of the trees and looked into the creek bed there was indeed a trickle, but clearly too little to allow me to refill my water. I exited the shade and continued on my sunny way back to my car. After a long descent along the creek I crossed once again, followed a gravel road for a short way and then clambered back up the ridge to re-join the trail I had followed out since my route was a lollipop loop.
The way back to the car was mainly downhill, and when I returned I opened my car and proceeded to down some water, splash cold water on my face and neck from the cooler box in my car, and then enjoy some grapes that tasted wonderful at that time.
The Ridge to Rivers trail system provides some excellent trail running options with some good distance routes possible along well-maintained trails. The seemingly endless ridges of dry grass do not quite appeal to me aesthetically but I imagine that the surrounds would look nicer outside of summer when they are green. It is great that the city has such an extensive and easily accessed trail system right at its door.