‘Hard Guy,’ ‘Freddy’s Stack Rock’: How did these Boise trails get their names?

Tribune Content Agency

BOISE, Idaho — If you’ve explored Idaho’s Ridge to Rivers’ website, scrolled AllTrails or simply embarked on a local hike, you’re likely familiar with some of Boise’s trail names. They range from the obvious — like Table Rock — to the cryptic.

Their origins aren’t always clear.

“A lot of these names were there before there was a trail system,” Chris Haunold, owner of Idaho Mountain Touring, told the Idaho Statesman.

Several of his former employees are immortalized in Foothills trail names, a result of the small mountain biking community that took hold in the 1980s. Besides mountain bikers, Haunold said, there weren’t many people in the Foothills back then other than sheepherders, the occasional hiker and equestrians. Frequently, the Foothills were used as a dumping ground.

Some of today’s routes started as game or livestock trails that became popular with mountain bikers. They were named by the biking community after landmarks or the person credited with discovering the route.

After Ridge to Rivers was established in 1992 to manage the burgeoning trail system, cleanup and conservation, some of those names — like Bob’s, Scott’s and Hard Guy trails — stuck.

Other trails were built by Ridge to Rivers and christened later, but similar naming conventions prevailed. Some were named for local wildlife, streams, rock formations or families who helped stitch together the trail system, which traverses private and public land.

Tim Breuer, who served as Ridge to Rivers’ first director, told the Statesman the names reflect a community effort to transform the Foothills into what they are today.

“The naming process and the whole coming to being would not have happened without citizens who cared,” Breuer said, citing issues with erosion, weeds and off-road vehicle damage. “The (Bureau of Land Management) was the primary agency trying to get a handle on managing this wildscape next to a growing city, and it was a challenge for them. It’s hard to imagine it now because it was so different, but it was pretty chaotic.”

Longtime Boise residents may remember those days. Breuer said some people likely still call different routes by former monikers rather than the official names Ridge to Rivers uses today.

Here are the stories behind some of those official names:

Trails named after people

Bob’s Trail is a 1.6-mile trail in Upper Hulls Gulch that begins at Hearthstone Drive in the Highlands neighborhood and connects with Corrals, 8th Street Connection and Urban Connector trails. Haunold said it’s named for Bob Wood, who worked as a bike mechanic at Idaho Mountain Touring in 1985.

According to Haunold, Wood found a game trail in the bushes and began riding it every morning before work.

“If you didn’t know it was there, you’d go right by it,” Haunold said.

Wood only shared the location with people he knew and trusted — Haunold said even he never convinced Wood to show him the route. Eventually, word got out, and mountain bikers referred to it as Bob’s Trail, a name that Ridge to Rivers kept.

Like Bob’s, Scott’s Trail is named for a local mountain biker who began riding a game trail that soon became popular. Scott VanKleek, a former Boise elementary school teacher, was the first to ride it, Haunold said.

Femrite’s Patrol was named for Jim Femrite, an Ada County sheriff’s deputy who patrolled the Foothills on a motorcycle. He started his patrol in the late 1980s and retired in 2010. He died in 2012.

“He was a critical piece of trying to get things (in the Foothills) moving more in a conservation direction rather than just a back alley where you took your trash and ripped (the ground) up,” Breuer said.

Haunold said Femrite was the sole person keeping an eye on the Foothills from Idaho 21 over to Bogus Basin Road.

Florence’s Trail is a 0.14-mile connector between Red Fox and Camel’s Back trails. According to Boise Parks and Recreation, the trail was named “in honor of Florence ‘Flo’ Mankaah Niba, a Cameroonian immigrant and longtime Boise resident who was a passionate trail runner and community advocate.”

Ridge to Rivers’ newest trail, Hawkins Loop, is named for the family that sold the Hawkins Reserve to the city, according to Parks and Rec.

Three trails in the Oregon Trail Reserve off of Idaho 21 are named for Oregon Trail pioneers: Ezra Meeker, Sara Sutton and Joel Palmer.

Peggy’s Trail was named for Peggy Grossman, whose family donated a trail easement in 2014. Parks and Rec said Grossman’s son John requested the name.

Shane’s Trail honors Shane Erekson, who managed Idaho Mountain Touring’s Fairview store in the 1990s. Erekson died in December 1995 after rolling his car on Bogus Basin Road and rupturing his pancreas, Haunold said.

The next spring, the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) partnered with REI to build a 2.3-mile trail that loops with Three Bears.

Haunold said Erekson was “one of the nicest guys.”

“He was quite a character in the Boise cycling community,” Haunold said. “He was a farm kid from Declo who got into mountain bikes with a passion.”

Robert Smylie and Kemper’s Ridge trails are both part of the Hillside to Hollow Reserve. Trails in the reserve were named in a public nomination and voting process in 2015, so the origins of some routes’ monikers — like Who Now Loop — are unclear. But Smylie Trail is named for the former Idaho governor, while Kemper’s Ridge refers to Don Kemper, founder of Healthwise. The company’s headquarters is adjacent to the reserve, and the city purchased land for the reserve from Healthwise.

Breuer said Hippie Shake, also named as part of the voting campaign, shares its name with a beer at neighboring Highlands Hollow Brewhouse.

Trails that reference Boise landmarks

Some trail names are simply a way to give a sense of place. Haunold said that was especially useful pre-Ridge to Rivers.

“A lot of the names were a way to reference where you were because there were no trail maps or anything,” he said.

Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail takes hikers through the forest north of Boise to the namesake rock, which can be seen over the treetops from the Bogus Basin area. It’s also a nod to Fred Alleman, who “donated to help the city of Boise acquire the land surrounding Stack Rock,” according to his 2019 obituary.

Corrals Trail is a 5-mile trail that crosses the Foothills between Bogus Basin and Sunset Peak roads. Haunold said at times there were corrals of cattle along this trail. Sheep Camp, which connects Hard Guy and Dry Creek trails, has a similar background.

Multiple trails, including Cottonwood Creek, Currant Creek and Dry Creek, are named for the waterways they cross or parallel. Several others, like Cottonwood, Elephant Rock, the Grove and the Pondshave clear connections to the landscape.

Polecat Loop refers to nearby Polecat Gulch, though Breuer said it’s unclear why the landmark was named that way. “Polecat” is a term referring to several animal species — including skunks and ferrets in some parts of the U.S. — but commonly refers to the European polecat, which is a type of weasel.

Three Bears is one wildlife-themed name that doesn’t refer to the presence of actual wildlife. Parks and Rec officials said the name refers to “the three unofficial leveled sections you encounter along the trail, like Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.”

Haunold had a slightly less wholesome explanation.

“I don’t know who named it ‘Three Bears,’ but it had three big hills to climb if you went on it,” he said. “They were — pardon the French — an effing bear to go up.”

Table Rock, Quarry and Old Pen also reference clear markers. Five Mile Gulch, Hull’s Gulch and others refer to existing named landmarks. Homestead was named for the foundation of an old homestead on the southwest side of Lucky Peak.

Wildlife, plants and more

Breuer said wildlife names became common when Ridge to Rivers started building more trails. The names were a nod to animals — and sometimes plants — frequently seen in the Foothills.

Chickadee Ridge, Red Fox, Goldfinch and Kestral trails are all part of the Hulls Gulch area, which is heavily wildlife-themed. Some Hulls Gulch wildlife trail names seem particularly apt — like Red-Winged Blackbird, which Breuer noted is in wetlands the birds frequent, and Owl’s Roost, where great horned owls have roosted for decades.

Chukar Butte, Deer Point and Doe Ridgeare other prominent wildlife names. Local flora makes appearances with Wild Phlox, Bitterbrush and Ponderosa Pine Overlook trails.

Other trails have more unique backstories.

Haunold said Hard Guy Trail, a challenging route that connects Corrals to Boise Ridge Road, was named by Idaho Mountain Touring bike mechanic and “national-caliber mountain bike racer” Doug Kozlik.

“It was an existing trail, but Doug started riding it and calling it Hard Guy Trail because it’s really, really really hard to ride up it,” Haunold said. “Word got out about this absolutely crushing trail that was really hard to ride.”

Kozlik remembered it differently. He said former Idaho Mountain Touring owner John Platt named the route when the business had races on different Foothills trails. Kozlik said he won the Hard Guy race.

Steve Stuebner, SWIMBA founder and author of “Mountain Biking in Boise,” noted the trail was also called Hard Guy/Fast Guy, because it could be a tough uphill battle or exhilarating downhill depending on which direction you ride.

Heroes Trail, completed in 2021, is part of the Military Reserve near the VA Hospital. City officials said the name celebrates health care workers and military personnel.

Sweet Connie is an unusual name. If you’ve ever wondered who Connie is, she has no apparent ties to Boise. Instead, Haunold said, the name is a reference to “Sweet Connie” Flowers, a well-known 1970s rock groupie mentioned in Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band.”

“It was one of the very first sort of downhill, real flowy trails that you didn’t have to do a lot of climbing,” Haunold said. “It somehow became known as Sweet Connie because it was such a sweet trail to ride.”

Finally, Watchman Trail appears to be linked to a former mining claim. Breuer said a Watchman mine existed pre-Ridge to Rivers, and U.S. Geological Survey records show the Grubstake mining claim, once owned by Watchman Exploration, was located just northeast of the trail. The claim appears to have been abandoned or forfeited in 1987.