Mike Murphy

Feels like the dog days are well underway. Normally when it gets this hot outside, the action around town starts to slow down, at least for me. Some yard work in the morning then it’s time to close up the house and hunker down in front of a fan.

However, the local event schedule last month just happened to offer some unique outdoor opportunities nudging me to break out of my normal summer routine, and I’m glad that I did.

On Saturday, July 13, the third road race in the 2019 Portneuf Valley Fun Run/Walk Challenge Series put on by the Pocatello Parks and Recreation Department took place. The races are scheduled on five Saturday mornings throughout the summer, are very popular, and are definitely one of the coolest things happening in town.

With a variety of distances to choose from, hundreds of folks regularly participate. The runs are a great family event and include food and cold drinks after the races.

The races are well organized due to the Parks and Rec people plus volunteers and sponsors who donate lots of nice prizes that are given away after the race. I seem to have a knack for winning socks. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had to actually purchase new socks. Other people win iPads, Fitbits, and mountain bikes, stuff like that. Me? I win socks.

All things considered, I say there’s nothing better than running 3.1 miles of hellacious hills at 8 a.m. on a record-hot July morning. Some people do it for the health benefits, some do it for the camaraderie. Personally, I do it for the donuts they provide the runners at the finish.

Thursday, July 18, was the first Poky Portneuf Paddle organized by a group called the Portneuf River Vision. Advertising for the event encouraged people to float the Portneuf that evening from 5 till 8.

I must admit that I was skeptical about the whole thing. I have looked at the Portneuf near Pocatello for years and swore that I would never even stick my little pinky toe in that nasty water. I certainly did not imagine that I could ever float the river in my kayak — but I was wrong.

At the river floating event, about 1,000 participants of all ages discovered a magical escape right under our noses as we took kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, giant inflatable duckies, whatever down the river. My wife and I did the long float from Edson Fichter Nature Area to Centennial Park in one hour.

For years I have pondered why the city did not invest more time, effort, and money into cleaning up the river and make it a major attraction. Granted, the Portneuf is not the Snake River in Idaho Falls or the Boise River in Boise. But that does not mean it should be totally neglected.

In a May 13, 2018, ISJ article, Hannah Sanger, the science and environment administrator for the city of Pocatello, reported on the Portneuf River Vision Study. The study outlines a list of river improvement concepts that would affect a large area of the city.

The proposals presented in the river study sound much more exciting and practical than some of the other area construction projects we hear so much about. What sets the Portneuf River project above the others is that it would benefit all the residents of Pocatello and Chubbuck, as indicated by the diverse river float turnout.

Perhaps events like the Poky Portneuf Paddle will get more folks excited about the river’s potential and create more pressure on local politicians to be better informed and more aggressive in pursuing the river’s resuscitation.

Wrapping up last month’s eclectic lineup of outdoor events in Pocatello for me was the inaugural Shady Grove Music Camp at FMC Park on July 19-20. The festival was set up with two stages providing nearly nonstop music. At $25 for both days it was the musical bargain of the year so far. And the price included on-site camping!

Shady Grove was no Woodstock, of course, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. But in most ways, that was a good thing. I really do not need mud to roll around in and mosquitoes to chomp on me to have a good time.

What Shady Grove had in abundance was lots of shade (naturally), perfect weather, outstanding local and regional musical talent, very reasonable prices on everything — and just enough hippie-like folks grooving to the tunes to give the scene a cool vibe.

Kudos to the owners of FMC Park for letting the kids do their thing there. Obviously, the owners were taking a risk because we’ve all heard the horror stories about music festivals gone bad. But the park manager’s trust proved justified and, to my knowledge, no major problems popped up.

The dates for next year’s music festival are July 17-18. For those who like a variety of live music, prefer not to have to drive a long way to hear it, and don’t have a lot of cash to throw around, this is an event not to be missed.

A road race, river float, and music festival within a few minutes’ drive of one’s house — great ways to chill in the summer heat.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled “Tortoise Crossing – Expect Long Delays,” which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.