Savoring those rare few nice days in spring

Finding nice weather Saturdays in early spring in eastern Idaho is rare.

It’s as rare as a running Chevy Corvair automobile. The word Corvair shakes loose an old memory.

My high school friend Rick owned a Corvair that, when we could get the thing to run, we proudly drove around our tiny Oregon town. He thought it was his good fortune to have bought it for $100 back in the early ‘70s, even though the car was only a few years old. The rear-engine car had the dubious honor of being named one of the most unsafe machines in America. Rumor was that if you had a head-on collision the force could send the steering wheel shaft like a javelin through the chest of the driver (I usually sat in the passenger seat). It was engineered with the precision of a homemade go-kart. Other awesome features included push-button dashboard shifting, a radio that got one station and bald tires — we loved it (when we could get it to run). We never seemed to get any girls to ride along with us (but that may not have been just the car).

But back to our outdoor activities: Last Saturday, my sweetheart and I had a few hours available on a rare sunny Saturday afternoon, so we headed over to the Menan Buttes. The north butte, on Bureau of Land Management land, boasts a fun trail leading up from the west side.

When we arrived, there was a massive trail run race finishing up, and cars were parked for a hundred yards along the road. Normally, the paved trailhead parking lot is enough to accommodate the usual amount of visitors.

The trail runners were doing the Spitfire Ultra Challenge race with distances ranging from 5K to 50K.

The 3-mile trail starts off steeply up the side of the extinct volcano and eventually tops out on the rim of the butte. From the rim, the trail circles the volcanic crater and offers great views (on clear days) of the surrounding Snake River Plain. There are a few trail signs telling visitors about geology, local critters and history.

For more information on the Menan Butte Trail and how to get there, go to

The south butte is mostly private property and doesn’t offer much for hikers.

To the west of the north Menan Butte is an Idaho Fish and Game wildlife management area for those interested in bird watching and seeing other critters.

On Monday (another rare nice weather day), Julie and I and a friend spent a few hours checking out some new rock climbing routes at the Boot Camp Wall, a crag along the Blackfoot River canyon east of Firth.

I had been there a few times before, but some new routes had been installed since my last visit.

When we arrived we felt like we had stepped into a pleasant summer day. If it wasn’t for our friend’s commitment to teaching online piano classes at 6 p.m., we probably would have stayed well past dinner time.

Of course, Monday was as rare as a Corvair automobile because when the rest of the weekdays arrived, nasty chilly spring days returned.

Jerry Painter is a longtime East Idaho journalist and outdoorsman.


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