With all the harnesses, knots and skills it requires, the climbing wall at the University of Idaho has always seemed too complicated.But winter doldrums can alter one’s standards, so I loaded up the kids and decided to see for myself how bad it was. Not at all, it turns out. Here’s what we found on our recent day trip:
Trip type: Indoor, all ages, physical activity
Total time: Two to four hours, plus drive time
Stop 1: University of Idaho Climbing Wall
The climbing wall is on the north side of the UI student recreation center and is open to kids from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. After entering the building, the wall wasn’t hard to find. As we walked up to the counter, we saw a few parent-child duos climbing and belaying — a term I was too uncool to know at the time. They all appeared to know what they were doing.
We, on the other hand, did not. But that was only temporary. Everyone who uses the wall, kids or adults, has to take a basic climbing clinic or pass a belay check. The website said this was available at 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays, but a call to the center revealed that we could go later if we liked and a staff member would work with us as soon as one was available — the earlier hours, however, tend to be less busy. Close-toed athletic or climbing shoes are required, and it’s a good idea to wear flexible clothing.
After signing the liability release form and paying the fees ($7 per child, includes equipment — parents are free if they belay for their kids, $7 if they have someone 14 years old or older belay for them), we were shown a short video and our instructor set us up with harnesses and belay devices. Just wearing one of those makes you feel legit. My kids and I learned how to tie the figure-eight knot and attach it to our harness with such ease I wondered if it was magic dust and not chalk that was hanging in the air. Next we learned to belay, using the rope and harnesses so my kids could climb the wall without falling. This all took about 20 minutes.
If learning how to use climbing gear was easier than it seemed, the climbing itself turned out to be a bit more of a challenge. The first kid got only 6 feet off the ground before giving up — all the spidey-kids clambering up the walls around us falsely made it look easy. But the climbing routes are labeled, so we moved to a beginner spot on the wall. It didn’t take long before sheer height, not skill, became the limiting factor.
Over the next hour, it became obvious that the climbing wall offers three main attractions for kids: climbing up really high on a wall, “accidentally” slipping so that you can hang from a rope harness in midair and walking/jumping/rolling on the center’s bouncy padded floor. For me, I was glad to learn this was one skilled activity that didn’t require hours of practice in order to enjoy. Fun as it was, about two hours into it we were tired and ready for lunch.
Stop 2: Humble Burger
If you’re looking for a good burger, Humble Burger in downtown Moscow is a great spot. If that’s not what you want, keep looking — besides, fries and seasonal slaw, that’s all that’s on the menu. (There is a veggie patty option for those so inclined.)
Even if you’re in that second group, though, this place may have you rethinking your position. With their never-frozen meat patties on a brioche bun, we agreed this might be the best burger place around. It is a real burger if ever there was one. And the hand-cut fries were nothing to forget either. They’re thin, crisp, perfectly salted.
Another thing: How often do kids sit in a restaurant and just look around? I, too, thought the answer was “never.” But with the grill in the dining area, local artwork on the walls, interesting light fixtures and small, whimsical details, we found ourselves occupied until our food showed up.
Stop 3: Palouse Mall and Orange Julius
While we were out, we did some shopping at the Palouse Mall. We needed a few items, plus it meant my kids got their first experience of the quintessential mall treat: Orange Julius. My first sip in 20 years inspired some great stories about what malling was like for a teenage girl in the ‘90s. Oddly, my kids were considerably more enamored with their drink than my stories. I guess some things never change.