This is a continuation of posts about our Idaho trip in early October 2010.
After Silver City and a night in Boise, we drove up to the town of McCall near Payette National Forest. Before heading up to the hot spring Natalie suggested a little side trip to the local fish hatchery. She, already a fan, initiated me to the wonders of the fish life cycle. What we learned was pretty amazing. (Salmon swim to Idaho from the ocean! It takes them three months! A female can lay 4000 eggs! Only 200 make it back out to sea! Of those only 10 will reach adulthood! Of those 10, only two will return to spawn!)
We took the self-guided tour, saw salmon in their various stages of development, and learned that Idaho restocks fish at about 600 lakes every year by horseback, helicopter and backpack. Can you imagine hiking for hours with a backpack full of trout leaning over your shoulder asking, “Are we there yet” every five minutes? That’s dedication.
Anyway, after pleasant McCall, we drove past Payette Lake and on to Burgdorf. The last bit of the road is gravel but it’s graded. Any car will make it. As for the hot spring, it’s been around, well, since forever, and was built up for visitors in the Seventies—the 1870s, that is. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe it. The place looked as if nothing had changed in the last 140 years. Everything was made out of planks or logs. The main reception building had an old couch, wood burning stove and upright piano (which, to my suprise, Natalie knew how to play), and enough electricity to run a credit card machine. The cabins were $60 per night for two and a day at the spring (for non-overnight guests) was five bucks. Our friendly host pointed out the set of his and hers outhouses and then he and his dogs walked us to our cabin.
Here the time machine theme continued. Our accommodations were straight out of the 1800s: one room, pine walls, a bed, a couple of tables, an oil lamp and a wood burning stove. Perfect. He got our fire started, told us a little bit about the place, and the wolves that roam the area tracking elk, then bid us adieu. We resolved to get all of our outhouse duties done before nightfall lest the elk were in short supply. Then we got into our pool gear.
The hot springs were really quite nice. The main pool, bigger than a typical swimming pool, was 4-1/2′ to 5′ deep, had a toe-pleasing, gravel bottom and a bathwater temperature of about 104˚ Fahrenheit. Given that the pool is fed by a spring, the nearly quarter-million gallons are continually refreshed. And all of this gorgeousness was open to an unending Idaho sky.
Before flowing into the main pool the spring feeds two small soaking pools which reside under a tin-roofed eave. Catlin, one of the proprietors spring told us that these pools clock in at 112.7˚ F, which felt incredibly hot for being a mere 14 degrees above body temperature. Even Natalie, who’s a hot water aficionado, was concerned that, if someone accidentally threw in a load of carrots and onions, that she’d turn into Natalie soup.
We soaked mornings and evenings and explored the surrounding country by day. A few highlights: Crystal Mountain, right next door, was a mountain made entirely of yellow quartz; the ghost town of Warren, perhaps 20 miles away; and plenty of backwoods trails. Crystal mountain is worth a look. Warren was a little sleepy. It’s still partially inhabited but there were no businesses open that we could see.
At one point, on a ridge off of the main road, we stopped so I could fix the roof rack the had come loose. Natalie wandered up the trail to look for rocks. When she wandered out of line of sight, I yelled up to her “Don’t get eaten by wolves!” Sensing my concern she made her way back down the hill, but not before yelling back, “Don’t boss me!” She’s a charmer.
In case you’re interested in going, here’s the route from McCall to Burgdorf Hot Springs.