School has only been out a day and already “I’m bored” complaints are buzzing around the house like flies. Happily, we’re close to the river and foothills so we can always hop on our bikes or set out on foot from home for a bit of perspective.
“I’m bored,” Brenna finally announces after standing inches from me, unacknowledged for what seems like a minute.
“I’ll go on a bike ride with you,” I offer.
“Can we go to Dairy Queen too?” she counters.
“No,” I answer flatly. “We just had cookies.”
“I’m not biking then,” she huffs.
“Okay,” I say, calling her bluff.
The day alternates grey and gold as we bike along the two-lane asphalt path from our house, the sun obscured then revealed by dark, swirling clouds that loom overhead.
We are making a quick trip to see again what has been the top story in local news for many weeks now, the swelling Boise River. We heard its flow increased even more this week.
I took a minute a few weeks ago to see how much higher the flows would need to be to reach our house. We aren’t too far from the river. We’re safe for a few thousand more cubic feet per second, which isn’t remotely predicted.
“What are the bags of stuff for?” Brenna wonders as we push our bikes along the walking-only path into the Wood Duck Island preserve.
“They have sand in them,” I explain. “They hold back the water to keep it from washing away the trail.”
Wind rushing through trees like a titan’s long exhale is here joined by the sound of water crashing into the normally quiet pond alongside East Parkcenter Bridge.
It looks like the sluice gate to the pond is closed but water is nonetheless pouring in from across the preserve. That’s a sight I’ve never seen.
“The grass is really tall,” Brenna notices.
“Nobody has been here,” I explain. The area around the big tree is usually well trampled. This is how it looks post-apocalypse when all the people are gone.
The path and much beside it is under six inches of frigid water. We stand on a bench to give our feet a break from the cold before wading to the tree.
Grasses left to grow tall bend obsequiously to the wind’s demands, this way and that, exposing their lighter colored stalks in viridescent ripples.
The big tree’s branch grown impossibly low and large was for many years the kids’ favorite plaything along this path. They would prove their bravery by walking far along it before realizing they were too scared to turn around. Then they would yell for help.
The branch is still here, lying hidden but not forgotten amidst encroaching vegetation.
City crews will have plenty to do when the water subsides.
“Shall we follow the trail?” I ask Brenna. We usually leave the main path to thread through the little forest to where we can look up and watch primeval-looking heron in their high rookery.
“Yes!” It’s an adventure.
Our pace is robotic as sandy mud sucks hard on our sandals.
I turn to the sound of loud cracking and see half a cottonwood tree falling as if in slow motion. Brenna and I are standing on another bench surrounded by water that’s driven into small whitecaps with each gust of wind. Our ears are filled with the fearsome sounds of rushing and cracking.
“We should go back,” I say to Brenna as I start to step off the bench back into the water.
“No!” she implores, clinging to me dramatically.
I am only too happy to remain a moment longer, holding her close in the primal role of protecting father.
“Let’s wait for a pause in the wind before we walk by those,” I suggest with a nod at trees bending over the trail ahead.
Brenna turns around to stand up the plastic barrier and sign laid down by the wind. “It says ‘trail closed’,” she alerts me with some concern.
We pull our bicycles out of the tall grass where we left them aside the trail and this time I don’t remind her it’s walking-only here when she hops on and pedals away.
We feel sprinkles on our faces as we ride home and feel satisfied that we’ve experienced something a little bit special.