Population = 205,671(part of the Boise-Nampa metro area with 664,422), latitude 43º37’, longitude 116º12’, elevation 2846 feet, average January low temperature = 22.1, Average July high temperature = 90, average sunny days = 206, annual snowfall = 19.8”, annual rainfall = 11.7”
From Walla Walla, our trail leads South, passing into Oregon again. The valley with its lush, verdant farms and vineyards gradually gets narrower. The mountains get closer and higher and gain caps of snow. We cross over ridges and coast down into valleys. Finally we cross over the Snake River and into Idaho.
Our rental is in the Southeast quarter of the city, so we drive across most of the city to get there. Along the way, we can see how the city has grown, slowly and organically, over the years. Downtown is a mix of classic old and stylish modern. Close to downtown are the classic little craftsman homes of the 1920s and 30s, a little further out, the story-and-a-halfs from the 1950s, and finally the big barn, hipped roofs from the 80s. There are bike paths mixed in everywhere, with lots of spandex geeks barreling along them, ignoring cars. The Boise River runs through the town and large swatches of riverside are forested greenways with paths and parks.
The downtown Visitors Information Center has a lot of good information for us so we grab an armload and hike over to the Boise Brewery to sit and sort. The beer is fine and the brewers are fonts of advice on where to go and what to do. We find out that on Wednesdays, all summer, there are free concerts with beer and food in what they call Basque Block. The Basque settlers created their own little community here with a museum, restaurants, and a community center. They also host a pretty good party. The night is warm and the crowds get thick so we retreat to the coolness of a Basque restaurant for beers and huge sandwiches, heavy on the bacon.
Boise is the state capitol, so we go take a look at the building. Politicos always build themselves huge marble temples to work in and some are quite handsome. This one is about medium sized, as capitals go. It has the usual columns, dome, and chambers, as well as some nice artwork.
We have heard that the best view of the city is from Table Rock, so we set off to find it. My little map of Boise shows some roads that enter a clump of curly cul-de-sacs. After a few twists and turns and backtracks, we find a dusty dirt road leading up the hillside. At the top is a big parking lot and a long path to cliffside. Table Rock towers over the city and from here, the entire valley is visible, from rugged mountains to shimmering river.
Boise is the home of the World Center For Birds Of Prey so, bird lovers that we are, we have to go take a look. The emphasis here is preserving and propagating raptors, especially the rare and endangered ones. The guide shows us a kestrel and leads us through the exhibits. One of the exhibits is, surprisingly, a study of falcon hunting by the nomads in Saudi Arabia.
After a long, hot day of sightseeing, it is Beer O’Clock again, so we run over to the Garden City part of Boise. This is supposed to be an area of fine older homes with beautifully maintained gardens. And lots of breweries. Our approach is down the main street, which is not really very garden-y and very busy with Friday rush hour. We do find some breweries though, and re-wet our whistles. At the Payette Brewery, they tell us about the new one that they just opened, so we have to go take a look at that one too. This is an industrial sized brewery with a huge taproom and nice patio. The band is setting up for the Friday concert and the food truck is cooking up pub grub. I invest in a nice Belgian triple and a waffle bowl filled with pork, peppers, chili, rice, and cheese. Life is good.
Last day in Boise so how about the Zoo? The Zoo Boise is set into a big urban park along the river. They have a great variety of animals here, everything from butterflies to giraffes, prairie dogs to ostriches. We hear a great whooping and follow it to a cage where an orangutang(?) is doing a full Tarzan acrobatics performance on the trees and vines. Amazing to see such agility and strength in a creature that looks like it was built of pipe cleaners.
Boise is a great American city, big enough to have a diversity of people, cultures, homes, jobs, bars, breweries, and restaurants. You can see live theater, concerts, dance, comedy. There are parks and rivers and trails galore. It is also just big enough to get traffic jammed at rush hours, but not gridlocked. It has all four seasons to enjoy / deal with. Not the city I am looking for, but still, probably a nice city to live in.
Next up: Salt Lake City