After a couple of years of combining my passions of traveling and creating in the digital space, I've found that sometimes I need to get out and enjoy myself without the pressure of creating something after the fact. At home in Seattle, it means leaving the DSLR at home and if inspiration strikes, I'll have to capture it on my iPhone instead. On longer trips, like our New Years week spent in McCall, Idaho, it means that while we may bring all our gear - we hardly ever pull it out of the bag. For the purposes of comparison, during the five full days we spent in McCall - we snapped about 45 shots on our Canon T5i and S110 combined. During the four days we spent in Tofino back in November, we came back with 506 individual shots and a whole load of video clips.
All that being said - I still have to share how fantastic McCall was for a snowy getaway. This lakeside Idaho town has two breweries, a couple of adorable coffee shops, a disproportionate number of thrift shops, and even a large indoor ice rink. Adding to the pro's of a winter time visit to McCall is the proximity of outdoor snowy fun to the downtown area. Skiing, snowshoeing, and natural hot springs are all with easy driving (and in some cases walking) distance.
Go For An Easy Snowshoe In Ponderosa State Park
Just a couple of minutes down the road from McCall's downtown (and convienent snowshoe rentals), are the groomed nordic trails of Ponderosa State Park. The winter trail system is well marked with options for easy to more challenging grades. I recommend hightailing it, as fast as you can in snowshoes, towards the shoreline to enjoy the snowy views out across Payette Lake. Use of the trails is $5 per person plus an additional $5 per vehicle - plus tax. Keep in mind that everyone in your party will need to be on either snowshoes or cross country skies - you won't be allowed to walk the trails in your boots.
Make First Tracks with your snowshoes off Lick Creek Road
If you're ready for a more adventurous snowshoe, literally off the beaten path, head up Lick Creek Road to get some snowshoeing time in the untracked powder near Little Payette Lake. About 15 minutes from downtown is a US Forest Service parking lot on the right side of the road, marked with a sign containing exploration etiquette but no maps. From here, you can start making tracks in whichever direction looks right for you. I recommend heading west along the river towards Little Payette Lake.
On December 30th, in late morning, the only other folks we encountered were some snowmobilers in the parking lot headed farther up the unplowed portion of Lick Creek Road. Wandering through the trees and across frozen lakes (take caution while crossing these) - we had this snowy wonderland all to ourselves during a popular time of year for a visit.
Ski At Brundage Mountain Resort
Located about twenty minutes north of McCall is Brundage Mountain Resort - which has five lifts, 46 named-trails, and fantastic views of McCall and Long Valley from the summit. While it may not be as large as some of the Lake Tahoe resorts where I learned to ski, there were plenty of runs to keep me busy and enjoying the snow. For my first day back on skis in over six years, I couldn't have asked for a better run than Temptation. It's just over two miles long and rated as a green circle, although the last portion may really be more along blue square territory.
Adult lift tickets run $60 for a full day and $48 for a half. The best part, on New Years Eve, usually a popular day to get some skiing in - lift lines truly didn't exist. It was a ski straight down into the marked area and onto the waiting spot for your chair!
Soak In Trail Creek Hot Springs
I'm the first to admit that whenever I think of natural hot springs, specifically the kind out there in the woods, the '90s movie Dante's Peak immediately comes to mind. However, on our trip to Idaho, we were traveling with a number of hot springs connoisseurs determined to get us all out to some local pools. After a considerable amount of hesitation, I swim-suited up, butt-slid down the snowy trail off Warm Lake Road, and dipped my toes into Trail Creek Hot Springs.
At first dip, the water in Trail Creek Hot Springs was far to hot for someone as sensitive as me. Thankfully, the tubs here are improved with valves to plug the hot water and let in cool water from the creek. From the perspective of a first timer - the tub was clean enough considering it's out there in the woods. By far the best part of the experience is sitting in a warm tub with friends, surrounded by snow covered rocks and trees. It was so much more peaceful and cup-filling than a more developed hot spring could ever be.