BOISE — Newcomers driving up Bogus Basin Road are sometimes puzzled to see driver’s and passenger’s doors pop open on the car ahead of them, then quickly close again as the car crosses over a metal cattle guard and continues on as if nothing happened.
Ask youngsters, however, and you’re likely to hear the legend of the trolls.
“I grew up skiing here,” said Cody Pugil, 29. “The story I’ve always heard is the opening of the door to let ‘em in for good luck.”
On the way back down, the “trolls” are let back out.
Other versions of the legend call for motorists to lift their feet as they pass over the cattle guard — where the trolls supposedly hide — or touch the ceilings of their cars or honk their horns.
Recently, apparent pranksters have immortalized the local legend by installing an official-looking sign on the road about 4 miles out of town and 25 yards before travelers from Boise will arrive at the cattle guard. The sign features a picture of a troll and a warning: “Caution: Trolls.”
“I can’t believe there’s a sign — that’s pretty cool,” Pugil said.
The new sign sits right below an official road sign warning of snow or black ice, and possible slippery roads ahead; those are among the real hazards of travel on Bogus Basin Road, but the legendary lurking trolls are the more entertaining ones for youngsters.
Jeff Hobbs, 64, said he remembers back when the road had three cattle guards on it, and for good reason. The whole area was open range, and in the spring, when he’d ride his bike up the road, “There would be cattle in the road.”
“The road, when I was a little kid, it was dirt,” he recalled. “They put a seal-coat on it. Then the seal-coat broke up, so there were potholes everywhere.”
He remembered, as a small child, often getting carsick not far into the trip.
But tales of trolls made for happier memories for younger Bogus Basin-bound travelers.
“People used to do that — they used to open the door, or they would honk, or they would touch the ceiling of their car,” Hobbs said.
He also has fond memories of driving up to Bogus while he was in high school, in his “real crummy Volkswagen, it was just terrible.” Sometimes he and his passenger would open the door and kick along the road as if to help the VW keep going up the hill, even when they weren’t around the trolls.
Mike Jones, a Boise retiree who’s been skiing at Bogus Basin since 1975, said, “My kids and my grandkids have grown up with this tradition, and I think it is wonderful that somebody is memorializing this.”
Jones said he’s heard the legend of the trolls ever since he first started visiting the nonprofit ski resort 16 miles north of Boise, along its long, winding access road — now all smoothly paved, and much less dangerous than in the early days.
“I just remember you had to watch for ‘em, right there at the cattle guard,” he said.
Hobbs, eyeing a photo of the new troll caution sign, said, “That’s pretty cute — I like that!”