Let’s talk about this crazy winter we are having in Boise if we can for just a moment. On Friday it was 54 degrees. That’s not me fat-fingering 24 degrees and actually typing 54. It was, seriously, 54 degrees in January. I think we had all braced for another harsh winter like the one we had last year and instead, we are getting blue skies, sunshine, and very, very little precipitation. While I miss the snow, I’m also personally very excited that I won’t be succumbing to a vitamin D deficiency this year.
One of the things I don’t particularly like about winter is that hiking anything over three miles can really only be accomplished on the weekends simply because we work all day, and by the time we get off work, we have about 45 minutes to an hour of sunlight. I’m sure we could get our headlamps and go early in the morning, but Emily has to be at work at 7:00, so we’d have to go really early in the morning. Emily is a morning person, so I’m sure this would be fine. I am not. I would complain the entire time.
Because we don’t get to do too many hikes during the week, we thought this weekend we would really make our hike count. My friend Rochelle, who is super in shape, recommended we hike Cervidae Peak. She hikes this peak at least once a week, and the photos she posts are nothing short of spectacular. I couldn’t believe views like the ones in her photos actually existed–and only 15 miles outside of Boise–so I asked Emily if she would be interested in hiking to the top (and I greased the wheels by showing her the photos). We were both sold, so Saturday we packed all our gear and headed to Lucky Peak Reservoir. (Fun fact: cervidae literally means a large family of deer or elk, and the evidence of these deer and elk are plentiful on your climb–piles of large deer poop are everywhere! I’ve read elsewhere that if you go early in the morning, you have a chance to see these herds along the trail).
According to www.summitpost.org, there are four routes to Cervidae Peak: the East Route, the Southwest Ridge, the Direct West Ridge, and the West Ridge. We opted to take the East Route, which is the one Rochelle had recommended. We got a bit lost on our drive out to the trailhead, mostly because I didn’t google directions before we drove to Lucky Peak, and there is absolutely no cell phone service once you turn toward the marina. So I definitely recommend saving your directions before you go on this hike—otherwise, if you’re not sure if you’re going the right way, there will be no way to verify this.
To get to the parking area for the East Route, drive from Boise out to Lucky Peak Reservoir. There are several routes you can take, depending on where you live—we took Warm Springs to Highway 21. Once on Highway 21, you want to drive out toward the marina and Idaho City (about 13 miles outside of Boise). You’ll cross the bridge over Lucky Peak and take a right towards the marina on East Spring Shore Rd (at some point, this becomes Arrow Rock Road, though I don’t know when or why). After you turn on Spring Shore, you’ll continue until just past mile marker 2—you’ll see a distinct parking area off to your right. You’ll park there, and the trailhead is right across the street.
You can also type in “Cervidae Peak” into your Google maps, and it will show you were the parking area is (be sure you’re looking at the parking area off Arrow Rock Road and not the parking area off Highway 21). Again, do this before you head out, simply because you won’t be able to access any maps or directions on your phone.
As we were driving on East Spring Shore, we came across a group of very sweaty hikers walking along the side of the road, and I pulled over to ask them if they had hiked Cervidae. Exuding with post-workout enthusiasm, the older gentleman told us we were close to the parking spot and that it was a beautiful day for a 2,000 foot climb.
Rochelle had told me that the trail was only two miles uphill. What she didn’t mention (or I forgot to inquiry about) was the fact that the trail was two miles with a 2,000 foot elevation gain. The photos people post of the hike sometimes show the beginning but mostly the end of the hike—smiling faces at the top of nearly 5,000 feet, proud of their mountain-conquering accomplishment. Rarely do we see photos of the actual hike. And we are here to tell you: it’s a doozy.
We parked the Tacoma and crossed the road. The trailhead begins after you cross under the road barrier and turn right. There were two trashcans and an arrow pointing towards the trail made from rocks on the ground.
The climb took us roughly an hour and a half, and that can be attributed to me having to stop what seemed like every 200-foot elevation gain to calm my wheezing. Heavy breathing, burning thighs, and profuse sweating seemed to be the themes of this climb. But the views from the top were well worth it. At the top, there is a Cervidae flag with the elevation (4,987 feet!) as well as a notepad where you can sign your name and the date. I always appreciate this sort of documentation—a way to preserve a moment filled with a lot of pride and accomplishment. And believe me—making it to the top of this peak is an accomplishment! No matter how long it takes you!
The best advice Rochelle offered us, and advice I would like to pass on to everyone else, is the need for hiking or trekking poles. At one point, near one of the 4,000 hills we had to ascend, Emily stopped and yelled behind to me “f*ck! It feels like this is a 45-degree angle. Am I climbing up the side of a triangle??” I had to laugh, which used precious limited oxygen, and we had to stop and take a water break so we could regain our composure. But the trekking poles were an absolute necessity. It did, in fact, feel multiple times like we were climbing up the side of a triangle, and the poles added some much needed support and stability (though this morning, we both have incredibly sore shoulders). They are also very beneficial when coming downhill, especially for those of us with weak knees. I bought my Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking poles from REI two years ago, and they have proven to be the one piece of equipment I use on every hike. I absolutely love them, to the point where I bought my mom a pair for Christmas for her walks. I used to worry about looking über nerdy with hiking poles but I’m here to tell you: they only make you look more bad ass.
This is definitely a hike where you want to pack water, and you may want to pack a snack of some sort. We brought our REI Flash 18 bags, which are the BEST bags for shorter hikes. They hold quite a bit of stuff (our water, an extra hat and gloves, and, most importantly, the selfie stick). We ended up layering, because it was still a bit chilly out and the wind on the hill could be pretty unforgiving, but being able to take off jackets and sweatshirts probably saved us. Plus, I wore the amazing cats flying through the galaxy leggings Emily’s sister bought me for Christmas (from Brave New Look).
It’s the perfect weather to climb Cervidae, and Emily and I both loved the challenge and the feeling of achievement when we made it to the top (and back to the car, because descending the peak was almost as difficult as ascending it).
For the mood of this hike (and maybe it’s because we are going to Katy Perry next weekend), check out Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish.”