Jump Creek 

Head west for Owyhee County-approximately Marsing-and there, amid the desert scenery you'll find Jump Creek Canyon, a place known to at least a couple of generations of Canyon County teens (and not for its desert scenery).

But Jump Creek isn't just a kegger locale. It's a picturesque little place that sneaks up on you unawares. One minute you're driving through sagebrush and the next, there's a cool desert canyon you probably didn't even know was there.

A typical day trip to Jump Creek will likely find the place occupied by other fresh-air enthusiasts who either don't have the time, the energy or the inclination for a real hike. The creekside trail leading into the canyon is narrow and brushy, but at a quarter-mile long with no real climbing, constitutes a pleasant constitutional rather than a proper hike. This is a good one for kids and the older set alike. Try to ignore the graffiti in the rock crevices.

As you're making your way into the canyon, you can enjoy the desert scenery, with sagebrush, wildflowers and creekside growth, as well as the volcanically formed cliffs that make the canyon-some as high as 600 feet. You might spot wildlife such as lizards, snakes, bats, pigeons, cliff swallows and hawks along the canyon floor and in the volcanic rock caves along the canyon.

The short trail terminates at a 60-foot waterfall at the mouth to the canyon's upper reaches, with a sludgy green and stagnant pool below. Swimming is possible, but deemed extremely "yucky."

A short and extremely steep trail up the east slope from the base of the cliff affords a nice view of the falls and upper canyon.

West of the waterfalls is the "Devil's Ladder," a rock crevice that leads to the upper canyon. Every year, someone decides to tackle the ladder, and frequently people fall off either the slope or the top of the falls and meet an untimely end. (Rocks, as a rule, tend to be hurty and the water in the pool isn't that deep ...) So maybe content yourself with just looking at the rock formations.

A recent trip to Jump Creek yielded many opportunities for people watching-typical of the place. On this particular Saturday afternoon, we jaunted into the canyon and startled a party-two guys and their moll-that we were pretty sure were either beginning or ending a porn shoot. Later, two of our party spent about a half-hour trying to marshal a crawdad into a Nalgene bottle-unsuccessfully, being outwitted by their own timidity at the little feller's pincers. Still later, two other of our party crawled into a random cave (also not recommended) to hide and giggle at their own cleverness. No wildlife other than the human variety was spotted that day.

A jaunt to Jump Creek is truly a daytrip-no overnight camping allowed. The local police come out often to patrol for kegs o' beer and the teenagers who love them. (Although I have it on good authority that they don't usually get out of their patrol cars, but rather blow warnings at potential lawbreakers into the canyon via megaphone.)

To get to Jump Creek Canyon: From Boise, take I-84 to Nampa, then take Highway 55 to Marsing, about 1-1/2 miles past the Highway 95 intersection; turn left onto Cemetery Road and travel about 1-1/2 miles to where Cemetery Road intersects South Jump Creek Road; turn left (south) and head for the mouth of the canyon, which is visible from a distance.

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