On the road...

Our first visit to the town of McCall was during the winter season. Needless to say, we fell in love with it there and have since made a return visit in the summer. If you had to ask me to choose which season is best, I couldn’t. Both offer up incredible outdoor adventures, it literally is quite impossible to pick!

When we checked into McCall RV Resort (our favorite place to stay when in town) we were greeted with smiling faces from Carrie and Dwight who were at the front desk.  They got us up to speed on the running’s of the resort and where to find what.  Also Carrie was generous enough to offer up her big book of dining suggestions for us, full of tips on some of the best places to go and eat.  I was happy to spot on that list the places we already had reservations for (it was at that moment I knew we would be eating well!).

Snow is deep!
Snow is deep!

When we were ready to head back to the Airstream to find our spot (G4, by the way) Dwight hopped into his golf cart and guided us to our spot helping us hook up!  I would also like to say how helpful it was to have our propane tanks re-filled by the staff at McCall RV resort.  That was such a nice perk since it really is a pain to take the tanks off, haul them to a gas station to get them refilled and then drive them back in the frigid cold weather to re-hook them up.  So yes, what a nice surprise that was. We felt very spoiled.

Winter camping.

The next morning we hop into the truck and make our way to Brundage Mountain for a day of skiing. We join up with our host and guide April Russell, director of communications, at 9 AM sharp at the aptly named Blue Bird express. This state of the art high speed quad rises 1,556 vertical feet in seven minutes. Experiencing absolutely no lift lines I will let you do the math on the number of untracked laps of powder runs you can pack in a morning. This gives you plenty of time to relax on the peak and absorb the panoramic breath taking views.

Ski graphic for Brundage Mountain.

April gives us a great tour of the mountain and our son, B, quickly catalogs his favorite runs on the “Front Side.” He then asks us, “What trails do you want to ski this time? Main Street? North? Alpine? 45th Parallel?”  

Skiing at Brundage Mountain.
Skiing at Brundage Mountain.

Before we ran out of breath, Lakeview bowl and it’s adjoining backside runs were next on our list. Talk about well-spaced trees and open bowls.   Along with the backside trails, B loved their names featured from logging lingo such as Kickback, Springboard, Hotshot and Dropline.

Brundage had most definitely lived up to its reputation of not only the best snow in Idaho but some of the best snow in The Northwest.

Plenty of powder.
Plenty of powder.
Collage, on the lift and on the mountain.

It was still light outside when we arrived at the Shore Lodge for an apres-ski dining experience we have been looking forward to.  Shore Lodge has been a beloved lakeside resort in Idaho since 1948.  As we entered the lodge we were greeted with a warm, inviting décor featuring huge pine logs, river rock, wood floors and polished marble accents that harken back to McCall’s history as a timber and mining town. Floor- to-ceiling windows in its public areas make the most of its setting by offering breathtaking views of Payette Lake and Payette National Forest.

Just take a look at the view that we were greeted with upon entering the award-winning “The Narrows,” restaurant.  Snow covered Lake Payette in all its glory. I think we stood there for what seemed like eternity just gazing through the windows at the lake.

The Narrows at Shore Lodge.
The Narrows at Shore Lodge.

The Narrows menu was difficult to choose from as everything sounded divine.  The mouthwatering menu is accompanied by an extensive collection of wines, dessert wines, ports and artisan cheeses.  A gourmet foodie’s dream come true no doubt.

After our delicious meal, we headed back to the Airstream for an early night. We wanted to get plenty of rest because the next day we would meet Peggy and Chuck, owners of Cheap Thrills snowmobile rental company (and in the summer, watercraft!). We were going to snowmobile to some hot springs we have heard about that were located in the backcountry. Sounded like a dream trip to me!

Gearing up for a snowmobile tour.
Gearing up for a snowmobile tour.

After we geared up with warms suits, boots, helmets and gloves (all provided by Cheap Thrills) we hopped into the truck and drove to our meet up spot. Chuck was already there waiting for us.

I tell you, we were so impressed. I have never driven a snowmobile before and Chuck was an information machine on everything snowmobile. He took his time explaining everything there was to know about snowmobiling from how to start, stop, navigate get the snowmobile unstuck to changing the belt which he made us feel confident we will never need to do, as long as we stayed on the path.  I memorized Chuck’s every word as if I were going to take a major exam.  I mean, I was a little nervous going snowmobiling but now, after listening to Chuck and having him explain how to go about it – I felt very at ease and relieved.  I was ready and excited!

Snowmobiles and riders at the ready.
Snowmobiles and riders at the ready.
Snowmobile route map.
Open trails ahead.
Open trails ahead.

30+ miles later and we arrive in Warren which was, back in the day, a good mining boom town.  We park our snowmobiles and have a look around and imagine what it would be like to live here and what it could have been like “back then.”

We've arrived at Burgdorf.
We’ve arrived at Burgdorf.

We decide it’s time to head over to the hot springs and continue back the way we came.  B is having the time of his life and is riding on the back of his dad’s snowmobile.  I was fine with that since I take more confidence in Hubby’s snowmobiling skills than mine at this point.

When we arrive at the Burgdorf Hot Springs we are completely in awe. We learned from Chuck and Peggy that the hot springs were owned and built by Fred Burgdorf in the 1800’s. Fred came from San Francisco to nearby Warren to prospect for gold and he obtained the hot springs as payment on a promissory note.

Old rustic buildings at Burgdorf Hot Springs.

Thanks to Fred who saw the financial potential  in these natural hot springs, he turned Burgdorf into one of Idaho’s first resort towns opening in 1870.

Here for $6 you can soak for as long as you like in either the large swimming pool or in one of the smaller pools but be warned, the smaller pools are where the natural hot spring inlets are and they average a temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit.  For that simple fact, it is not recommended for a soak longer than two minutes (or as long as you can stand it).

Warm soak in the hot springs.
Warm soak in the hot springs.

We climbed out of the hot springs and quickly made our way to the cozy dressing rooms that were kept warm by wood burning stoves. As we hopped back on our snowmobiles, we took a look back at Burgdorf to bid farewell and start our trip back to McCall.

J5MM_VisitIdaho_McCallPost (16 of 28)

You know you are about to embark on an amazing dining experience when you catch wind from the locals that the beloved Chef of Rupert’s Restaurant, Chef Gary Kucy, was selected as a semi-finalist as “Best Chef:  Northwest” for the  2013 James Beard Foundation Awards.

Ready for dinner at Rupert's.
Ready for dinner at Rupert’s.

I will not hesitate to tell you that upon hearing this news, I was completely thrilled to dine at Rupert’s Restaurant located in the historic Hotel McCall and go straight to epicurean heaven.

I also had the opportunity to meet David Carey, owner and manager of Hotel McCall and Rupert’s Restaurant in addition to Chef Gary Kucy. They both educated me on the history of McCall and just why they think this town is tops from the down to earth people and community, to the easy access to outdoor adventures and the plethora of local culinary Idaho goodness.

Our dinner was superb from the venison meatballs and delicate butternut squash soup to some exquisite Thai clams. Each bite was a flavor explosion and an absolute treat.

Collage, Rupert's menu items, Chef Kucy
Scenic backcountry.
Scenic Tamarack.

On our last day, we drove to Tamarack Resort to check things out and get some runs in. I truly believe that you cannot visit McCall without snowboarding/skiing at Tamarack Resort.  Located near Donnelly, Idaho and about 30 minutes from McCall we arrive and are excited for our day ahead.

Tamarack enjoys a 2,800 vertical drop that is filled with open bowls, glades, challenging back country and high speed corduroy groomers and the views are nothing short of spectacular.

When we arrived, the Sports Dome was bustling with guests signing up for lessons, a modest line for rental equipment and a great espresso bar.

Outside the temperature was a perfect 19 degrees F, no wind, crystal clear skies and four inches of new snow.

Ready to ski at Tamarack Resort.
Ready to ski at Tamarack Resort.

We signed B up for a private ski class while hubby signed up for a guided tour with ski legend Wolfe Ashcroft.  Later hubby told me Wolfe led him in a game of cat and mouse through the variable mountain terrain and he confessed he was no match for the world class skier. He also mentioned that from the base, two high-speed quads whisked them back up to the top in minutes. He had a great time, there was no question.

Tamarack’s terrain, quality of snow and breathtaking views are a recipe for success. A definite bucket list place to visit !

Collage: sites around Tamarack

As we drove back to the Airstream at the end of the day we couldn’t help but reflect back on how beautiful our experience at Tamarack truly was.  People who live here, truly love living here. They tell me they wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.

On the slopes at Tamarack.
On the slopes at Tamarack.

We arrived back at the Airstream to freshen up before heading to our culinary adventure in the forest.

Snowshoe Adventure in Ponderosa State Park

Just a little over one mile, deep in the wintry forest of Ponderosa State Park is where the Blue Moon Yurt lives. It is here where we will have a culinary experience like no other.

Only accessible via snowshoeing or nordic skiing, B and I strap on our snowshoes while hubby clips into his skis and we allow the lit tiki torches to guide us to the yurt.

Freshly covered with powdery snow, the winding trail introduced us to towering Pondersoa pines, wildlife and a feeling of pure contentment and excitement at the evening ahead of us.

As we arrive at the yurt, we remove our snowshoes and ski’s and slip into the comfortable slippers that we brought along with us in our packs.  Stepping into the yurt we could hardly believe our eyes.

Dinner at Blue Moon Yurt.
Dinner at Blue Moon Yurt.
Collage: setting inside the yurt.

Persian rugs grace the floor of this yurt and the family style tables are decorated with beautiful glowing candles and fine linens.  The warmth from the wood burning fireplace is immediately felt and we are greeted by smiles from everyone in the yurt.   With rosy cheeks and all, we make our way to the big pot of hot spiced mulled wine and help ourselves while B settles down with his hot cocoa.

We sit down at our table and introduce ourselves to our soon-to-be new friends.  We are all very curious about one another and this is the magic behind the yurt experience.  The friendships that come from here can last a lifetime.  We learn that our friends are going to be going on a trip to Croatia in the coming summer.  I become very excited because one of my best friends regularly visits Croatia so I am able to share a little bit of insight with them.  We continue to laugh, tell stories about our day and before we know it, Lisa, the owner of the Blue Moon Yurt, asks us for our attention.

“Welcome everyone to the Blue Moon Yurt!  We are very happy to have you with us tonight!!” 

Lisa introduces us to the evening’s menu and we are all silent and listening carefully.  We begin with crunchy starfish calamari with a sweet ginger sauce and then come the sesame asparagus spears that disappear within minutes.  Luckily the plates keep coming and we all help ourselves endlessly.  We do try to keep mindful about saving our appetites for the main course, but it is hard!

We enjoy a delicious Thai soup, full of complex and comforting, warming flavors and our entrée is smoky sesame grilled salmon with a crunchy salad of shredded Napa cabbage with spicy peanut sauce and a sweet cooling cucumber salad with tri-colored peppers.

Collage: dinner service in the yurt.

Our evening was full of laughter and good times. What an incredible experience.

collage: decorations inside the yurt.

Soon it was time to head back. We said our goodbyes to everyone and headed outside.  We strapped our snowshoes and skis on and began to head down to the tiki lit trail that would guide us back.

As we snowshoed along, I looked up at the night sky that peeked through the towering Ponderosa pines and noticed how bright the stars were tonight.  And then a shooting star!

“Mommy!  A shooting star! Quick, make a wish!” B tells me.

That was easy, I thought.  We are coming back here and that will be a wish come true, for certain!

Tiki torches lead the way home.
Tiki torches lead the way home.

Our winter vacation in McCall is one we will never forget from the skiing, to snowmobiling, to the fine dining options and so much more. This is a true dream destination vacation!

This is a sponsored post.

Together with her husband and young son, Monica Bennett seeks out non-stop RVing adventures and culinary discoveries in the Pacific Northwest. Her travels on the road inspires her work as a photographer and writer for her blog, “Just 5 More Minutes,” where she shares her passion for cooking in her RV, demonstrates creative DIY crafting projects and writes about mastering the art of RVing domesticity. The RVing lifestyle is Monica’s escape from her 9-5 as a graphic designer in busy corporate America.   Travel with Monica and her family to their blog: J5MM.com.  All photos, including feature image, provided by J5MM.com.

Published on February 9, 2016