As we left the Oldtime National Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, we drove for a little less than two hours through some of the remotest areas of Idaho to get to McCall. That’s saying something for a State of only 1.6 million.
Initially, we yearned to be in the Ponderosa campground because of its proximity to town – you can ride your bikes there via bike trails. When we neglected to make a reservation (rookies, to be sure) and there was no vacancy, I was miffed.
Still, we went to see if there was a chance of availability and we discovered that the Ponderosa was indeed a busy campground: full of RVs humming with generators and dwarfing the few tents that braved it out. It almost seemed urban. We were turned away.
So we headed north to the Northwest Passage Campground: first come, first served. Hmpht!
It was only a twenty-two campsite campground that was half full! There was a little beach along the river that flowed into the Payette and
if we wanted to get into town, it was a 5-10 minute drive. No big deal.
Our kids (5 & 7) could ride their bikes around without much supervision, and we walked paths leading into the woods from the campground. Our kids played on the beach with some other little kids. Those kids even shared their sand toys. (see: rookies) Just glad I remembered bathing suits.
One of the days, we drove into town for lunch. I know, we were camping, but we also wanted to see the town of McCall. Had lunch at Toll Station Pizza and Pasta because my friend told us there was a good salad bar. She was right. The pizza for the kids was fine – nothing extraordinary. But we’re in Idaho, not Italy – remember. Then we walked around the “downtown.” Not much there, but some shops and a marina next to the “City Beach.”
Around McCall, there is also a fish hatchery. It’s open to the public, no fee and very interesting for the kids. We saw salmon in all stages: from the tiny ones to the teenagers. Fun and educational – no official tour: you just walk around and read the signs to your kids. Quickly, because they walk away (the kids, not the fish).
We spent two nights at the campground this time (a record, for us) and the new item that made it all bearable – the cots! — because frankly, it was cold, even in June. Yes, I’m an LA woman, thin blood. Instead of sleeping on the ground, we got cots. One third the price of thermarest pads and super comfortable.
On the way back to Boise, we drove 20 minutes out of McCall and then stopped at the Gold Fork Hot Springs, near Donnelly. One of the most beautifully built out hot springs in Idaho, it’s probably even more delightful when there is snow on the ground. Cost about $25 to get the whole family in and they don’t want you wearing lotion sun screen – only spray. Too lazy to ask why. But they’ll sell you spray at the store. They have ascending pools – from cool to super hot. If you like hot water, you’ll love this place.
McCall to Boise is a little less than a two hour drive and the scenery is stunning.
PS: My parents just came back from Alaska and when they saw our Red Fish Lake photos from a couple of weeks ago, they felt like they schlepped all the way to Alaska for the same scenery. Pristine mountains, isolated lakes, crisp air — beautiful American wilderness. All in the lower 48. How about that!