McCall  Memories


We’ve been coming to McCall, a quaint mountain town two hours north of Boise, for many years.  We have a whole slew of memories involving boating, camping and winter carnivals.  We have memories of feeding elk, snow skiing, golf tournaments and even a wedding.   

But the McCall memories I’m writing about now aren’t from way back – these are just from earlier this summer.   As we lost Elko and have wildfires to get through, these more current memories just got left behind for a little while.   They are no less valued and the friends no less loved.

fullsizeoutput_4acaOne of our first McCall activities this summer was a cruise on Payette Lake.  This goes into the category of “How did I  not know this was here.”


The cruise starts on the southern end and travels clockwise around the lake.  Drinks and snacks are available.  Mine is a huckleberry something as huckleberries are big in this area.


The Thursday night cruises have a piano player for accompaniment!

fullsizeoutput_4ac0Along the way there is narration about Payette Lake and the surrounding geologic features and homes.   The lake is eight miles long and 392 feet deep.  Native peoples thought there were evil spirits in the deep lake.


This property was involved with the early saw mill history of the lake.


This is Sylvan Point.  Cast and crew lived here while filming the movie Northwest Passage in 1938-1939.   Local construction crews built 125 structures including two forts.  A few of the original cabins still remain.

fullsizeoutput_4be6 Northwest Passage starred Spencer Tracy and Robert Young.  Some 900 extras were hired including many locals and 375 Indians from seven reservations.   Extras received $5 per day plus a box lunch.  


Sylvan Point on Payette Lake continued as a Hollywood destination and retreat.  We were told Marilyn Monroe’s potato sack photo shoot was at Sylvan Point.

fullsizeoutput_4abcNowadays there are beautiful homes surrounding Payette Lake. One of them comes with an interesting swimming pool.

P1020123We learned about the Payette Sunset Cruise from friends Kathy and Ted.  We didn’t cruise with them but we did meet them in McCall for a special dinner.    


Special because it was Kathy’s birthday and special because it was quite fancy!  We met at the Narrows Restaurant in Shore Lodge for a very delicious, enjoyable meal.

P1020063We enjoyed less pretentious eating at Jug Mountain’s Nine and Dine.  Randy joined former Boise golf league friends (and HP comrades) Mike and Rodger, and Rodger’s wife Donna for nine holes of golf.   Rodger and Donna now live in McCall.

Mike’s wife Nancy and I just went along for the ride and food.   Mike and Nancy now live in Arizona but were in McCall visiting.


Rodger and Donna hosted all of us at their home too!

fullsizeoutput_4bddCertainly not a personal memory,  but McCall history tells that the town is named for Tom McCall, a prominent leader who arrived in 1891.  Mining and timber were the town’s early industries and Tom McCall owned one of the first saw mills on Payette Lake. The picture depicts his first homestead.

We still have more than a month before we leave the McCall-Donnelly area and it is very likely we’ll live additional memories before we do.   Those will surely appear in another blog.

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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The old Platters song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” includes the lyrics:   When a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes.   We have certainly shed tears since our lovely flame, Elko, left us.  We thank those of you who reached out with love, support and good memories of our boy.  It has helped a lot.


We have also had some real smoke in our eyes since Idaho is on fire.  Photo by our friend Pam.


The sun is often colored by smoke.

When we took a trip to Boise the normal route down Highway 55 was closed or delayed due to one fire so we went the long way around on Highway 95.


As we drove we could see a helicopter and bucket fighting a new fire.



This was my view of the fire from Highway 95.   The highway was closed shortly after we went through.  


Although we had delays we eventually did make it back to Donnelly using Highway 55 – one lane with a pilot car escort.


The closest fire to our campground is the Mesa fire.

The Mesa fire began July 26 and, as of August 5,  involves over 34,000 acres and is 42 percent contained.  We’ve heard it is about 4 miles away.

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 3.47.09 PM

The blue dot is where we are.  The fire is coming our way but we haven’t heard anything about evacuations.


One day it snowed a lot of ash.


The fire fighting planes come right over us for hours each day.


We  know the fire is getting closer because of the frequency of the Scooper planes gathering 3000 gallons of water from Lake Cascade right in front of us.

We first noticed the scooper planes about a week ago coming through to scoop water for fire suppression.   They came in pairs on a 15-20 minute cycle.  Over the course of time, the fire grew closer, and now the planes come every 5-6 minutes for hours at a time.   See the video below.


fullsizeoutput_4bb8It is very interesting to watch and would be fun if it wasn’t so sad.  We know the pilots and firefighters are working hard to protect what they can.

P1020213Unfortunately wildlife is also effected.  Twice this week we have found a weakened, disoriented bat during the daylight hours of early evening.  This one was in our campsite and rested for a time on our paddle board.


fullsizeoutput_4b93Between us and the Mesa fire is Tamarack resort.  The resort has been through a variety of bankruptcies, tax delinquencies and foreclosures since 2008.   There are still lovely homes, winter skiing and a variety of activities available at Tamarack.   One entity that did not survive the financial problems was Osprey Meadows Golf Course. 

fullsizeoutput_4bb5 Randy remembers playing the course years ago and it is sad to see it now.

fullsizeoutput_4bb6The former cart paths give us a terrific place to walk through rolling meadows and hills.   There are some interesting sites such as this former sand trap.


Former tee box.


A former par 3 at Osprey Meadows.


We haven’t seen as much wildlife in our walks around Tamarack as we would have thought.  We did hear and see sand hill cranes a couple times.



These were really bothered by my presence and took off – like I could bother them.  They are as big as me!


fullsizeoutput_4bccThanks so much to my friend Jacque who braved the smoke to come up for the day.   Loved spending the time with you!


Sunset looks different when the smoke gets in your eyes.


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Elko’s Last Blog

fullsizeoutput_490aMy mom asks me to write the hard blogs, so here I am.    It is hard because I went to Rainbow Bridge this week and my people have a hole in their lives the size of a big black dog, the size of me.

I’d been having some pain in my face and at my age any little thing (or in my case the big cancer thing) can mean it’s time to take that last sleep to Rainbow Bridge and play with all the other beloved pets.  

fullsizeoutput_22b0And I am beloved – by almost everyone who knew me – but especially by my mom and dad.   My people love me – and I knew it every day.

I came to live with them in 2010.  My other people left me in Elko, Nevada and even though it was scary at the time, it worked out very well for me.

fullsizeoutput_2549I couldn’t tell my new mom and dad my name so they named me Elko.  My mom almost always calls me Sweet Boy which fits me perfectly.   My dad has many names for me – Baby, Baby Boy, Big Brawny Boy.  I answer to all of them because my people love me – and I knew it every day.

I couldn’t tell them exactly how old I was but we decided five was a good age to begin my new life.  (That makes me thirteen now – a good long time for a big black dog – but it doesn’t feel long enough.)

fullsizeoutput_32b2I couldn’t tell my people about all the things I knew and they sure were surprised when I showed them I could herd cows!

034They showed me some things too.   They showed me that hiking sand dunes could be fun.

IMG_0316They showed me that riding in our boat could be fun too.  I had to show them I knew how to swim but I never liked it.  


I like to wade and get my tummy cooled off, but NO SWIMMING!

P1030568When we left our house and my backyard and all of our stuff, they never considered leaving me behind. My mom and dad took me so many places.   My people love me – and I knew it every day.






fullsizeoutput_41c6And then we went even more places together!  My people love me – and I knew it every day.

fullsizeoutput_3ae2fullsizeoutput_42a9My dad used to say he was the pack leader because sometimes I’d follow my dad more than my mom.  But really, maybe I was the pack leader. My mom and dad followed all my routines.  My people love me – and I knew it every day.

fullsizeoutput_4103My special time with my mom was early in the morning.  We’d go outside and then she’d make me a special breakfast because I liked variety.  She’d make sure I took my pills and then help me get on the bed for a morning nap with my dad.  My mom loves me – and I knew it every day.

P1030168My dad would sit outside with me all the time because I really liked being outside.  Sometimes it was cold and sometimes it was hot but he sat with me anyway.  My dad loves me – and I knew it every day.

I knew how to get as many treats as I wanted and as many walks as I wanted and how to make my people happy with a little bit of cuddling.  I am the sweet boy – always wanting to be close by – but cuddling was something I did only in small portions. Mostly we cuddled for a few minutes at night as we all went to bed. My dad would rub my ears and I’d do little growls to make him happy.    I love my people too.



I always like it best when the three of us are together.  I love my people and my people love me – and we all knew it every single day.

They enjoyed watching me dream and see my feet twitch and my nose move all around.  They’d imagine I was dreaming about running and playing the way I used to before the old body held me back.   They hope that life is like that for me now at Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again…


My people love me – and I knew it every day.


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What’s Under the Lake?


We have seen many different faces of Lake Cascade over the years.

fullsizeoutput_4b8aIt is generally placid in the morning.

fullsizeoutput_4a26 There is usually some wave action in the afternoon and then it calms again in the evening.

fullsizeoutput_4a25We’ve seen overcast mornings and stormy nights.

fullsizeoutput_49bbWhen full, Lake Cascade has 23,307 surface acres of water, 86 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 26.5 feet.   

But what is under Lake Cascade?    Three towns and an old highway!

P1010951Van Wyck, established in 1882, was a bustling town.   When the Idaho Northern Railroad Depot was placed in Cascade, much of Van Wyck moved there.

Center, established in 1895, was so named because it was at the center of Long Valley.  It was small but had a store and post office.    Arling, two miles from Center, was established in 1914.   

Congress approved building the dam on the North Payette River and the remaining residents of Van Wyck, Arling and Center received eviction notices.  The Cascade Dam was built between 1946 and 1948.   The remains of Van Wyck, Center and Arling were completely submerged by 1957.


There is now a Van Wyck Campground and the former Arling school was moved to Donnelly.  It is now the Chalet RV Park Office.

fullsizeoutput_4b84And the highway?  An old section of Idaho Highway 55 goes under the lake and reappears a few hundred yards away. 

fullsizeoutput_4b88 It disappears near Kent and Pam’s cabin in Donnelly.   When the lake is low, they can walk the entire submerged route to the other side.  That sounds like something we should do!

fullsizeoutput_4b87For now,  Pam and Elko waded in just a bit!

Some osprey guard their nest at the end of the road.


fullsizeoutput_4b93We went up to Tamarack with Kent and Pam for a free summer concert.


P1020078We heard the Boise band, Voice of Reason, playing reggae.  It was quite pleasant.

fullsizeoutput_4b92Can you do more critter sightings?   This deer and I shared the road on our morning walk.

fullsizeoutput_4b91A blue heron seemed to like the morning solitude.

fullsizeoutput_4b7dNot critters – Friends!   Mike and Nancy came in for a visit.    Mike is responsible for the Life is Good sand writing in the header.  Life is good!   Thanks for coming out!



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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.  HE LOVES ME!


1280-161725811-field-of-daisy-flowersYou might remember our water heater drama over the last month.  Our original Suburban water heater developed a leak and needed to be replaced. Randy did the research and, with my agreement, bought and installed a Girard tankless water heater.

fullsizeoutput_4a34The advantages were that it reduced our travel weight by 100 lbs. because we wouldn’t be transporting water and a heavy tank .  It would also give us unlimited hot water while we shower and was $100 less expensive.

Almost immediately we (mostly I) had issues with the tankless hot water heater.  Our campground water pressure was so high that too much water was going by the heat source that it couldn’t be heated adequately. That could have been solved by reducing water flow but we like a lot of water pressure when we shower.  Randy fixed the problem by increasing the temperature so that the water that was heated was hotter. There was still a bit of a cold or hot flash now and then but it was working for showers.

Washing dishes was a whole other challenge because you couldn’t turn the water on and off while washing or rinsing because then you got 5-10 seconds of cold water while the heater reengaged.

fullsizeoutput_4ab9Then we moved to the west side of the lake where the water pressure is pitiful.  The tankless water heater would randomly shut off because there wasn’t enough flow to recognize that it needed to heat water.

The temporary fix was to fill our fresh water tank in the trailer and use the water pump which maintains a stable flow.  We were filling our fresh water tank almost daily because we were using it for drinking, bathing, washing dishes and doing laundry.

It felt like we were constantly chasing a moving target and that was likely to be true every time we moved.    While we could make it work when we had a sewer hookup, the problems would only increase if we were without hookups.   We’d be losing valuable water waiting for it to get hot, and using valuable grey tank space to store the water that went through while still cold.

Just a few days ago I said that having hot water shouldn’t be this cumbersome and I was discouraged by current and future moving targets.

Did I mention I am married to a terrific guy?   Even though Randy would have liked to make it work, he was on his phone ordering a new “old technology” water heater that same day.    When it arrived, he put it in the same night.


He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, HE LOVES ME!


Future home of 100 pounds of water…


Randy had taken pictures of connections as he took the original water heater out so that made the replacement some easier.   Did he have a premonition?


Happy Wife, Happy Life!

We thought we were going to take a financial hit on the tankless water heater, probably selling it used for a couple hundred bucks on eBay.   Randy suggested I look on Amazon to see if we could return it and we made the return date deadline by two days.    We said it “didn’t meet our expectations”.   I did my small part doing the return prep and taking it to the McCall  UPS store.   We will get a full refund.  We love Amazon Prime.

And in bizarre other stuff…

fullsizeoutput_4b36While working in the campground Randy found these labels I had written years ago.   It was easy to go back in our camping journal to find the entry.   We were here in July 2013 and the wifi was very sporadic.   The camphost at the time didn’t know how to help so Randy called the provider and together they figured out what was happening.    The wifi installer had powered the repeaters from campsite power poles and campers were turning the power off when they left – just like good campers do.  So I wrote notes so campers wouldn’t turn off those breakers and accidentally turn off the wifi.   Five years later they were still in place.    The park has recently gone to a different wifi provider with free service only near the bath house so my labels were no longer needed.

We’ve mostly enjoyed some critters in and near our campsite.  

fullsizeoutput_4aebWe saw this multi-colored fox on our first night on the west side and haven’t seen  him since.   We saw a fox on our first night on the east side and never saw him again either.


This was a big beetle!

fullsizeoutput_4b69We saw this family of skunks scurrying down the road last night.   The picture is disappointing but we weren’t going to get closer and open the window just for a picture.

P1020054And of course, Elko is our favorite critter of all!   No chance we love him not! WE LOVE HIM!  Elko goes to the lake several times a day for a drink and tummy soak.  He doesn’t understand waves and why he sometimes gets a face full of water.  


I hate him, I hate him not.  I HATE HIM!

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The Gift of Time


fullsizeoutput_4af8As I’ve written before, one of the perks of being volunteers at Lake Cascade is to see  friends as they come to the mountains to escape the Boise heat.   We were glad to see  Rick, Gail and Ozzie when they came through.   Thanks for spending part of your mountain time with us!

fullsizeoutput_4af3   We have also had friends come from farther afield.  We met Carl and Ruth during our first volunteer gig in Oregon in 2015 and have been able to see them several times since.  We were delighted to see them kayak in!   They truly gave us the gift of time with a ten day stay at Lake Cascade!

Carl and I are the paddle boarders.  Randy is committed to spending time on my board this summer and I hope he learns to like it.   Paddling would be fun to do together.


Ruth and I enjoyed some paddle board sit and float time.

fullsizeoutput_4afeRuth and I went to historic Roseberry to poke around.   Roseberry formed when  homesteaders came to the area in the late 1880s and was named for the first postmaster.

By 1910, Roseberry was the largest town in Long Valley having two churches, flour and saw mills, stores, a hotel, schools, a newspaper, bank, blacksmith, doctor, veterinarian and lawyer.   It was a happening place with a sizable Finnish population.

In 1914 the railroad line located 1.5 miles west and much of Roseberry was moved to the new town of Donnelly.     Roseberry was left almost a ghost town.


The general store continued to operate until 1939 when it too finally closed.   The store is now opened for exhibits and some purchases.   It is one of the few original buildings remaining in historic Roseberry.   Notice the Finnish flag.


Other originals include the Finn House and related structures.


The Methodist-Episcopal Church was built on this Roseberry site in 1904.  It was moved to Donnelly in 1929 and moved back to Roseberry by the Long Valley Presevation Society in 1973.


The building housing the Valley County Museum used to be a schoolhouse in McCall.


The Whitney-Fairbrother School, once located near Lake Fork, was moved to Roseberry and restored.  


In my former life as teacher, I never even considered paddling a student.


I didn’t consider living within these rules either!


In between all of our visiting, Randy spent considerable time and effort on his maintenance project for the park – replacing a pole fence.

The previous maintenance host had done much of the Poison Creek fence and Randy was highly motivated to get that completed.   It took him a day or two to get his flow but then just plugged along steadily.   He had help from a seasonal worker one day and a little from me another but did the vast majority of it himself.


One evening he decided to work while it was cooler.   The mosquitos were brutal.   After some Benadryl gel, Randy’s back looked normal again the next morning.


He used three different drills for different tasks.


To power them he used our Honda generator that we’ve had for 5-6 years and never used.  He was glad to see that it worked very well.


When he was done with the campground section it looked great!


We had a celebratory strawberry daiquiri! When I saw this picture I told Randy it was a good thing I loved his dad!

fullsizeoutput_4b30We concluded our time with Ruth and Carl with some more floating and boating.   We called this photo op the “walking on water” shot.  Thanks Carl!

fullsizeoutput_4b40I always make fun of feet photos and then took one myself as I was trying to get Carl and Ruth.

fullsizeoutput_4b3cWe were hoping to see moose on our kayak trip through “the meanders” north of McCall. We saw more dogs playing in the water than wildlife but still enjoyed the paddle and the beautiful scenery.  The reflections were so perfect.

fullsizeoutput_4b33Ruth took this one of us, perfectly reflected along with the trees.    Thanks for a great visit Carl and Ruth!  We can’t wait to see where we meet up next time.

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Wrapping Up the East Side

fullsizeoutput_4964When we arrived at Ridgeview Campground it was mid May and we had half-days of peace and quiet in our section of the campground on the east side of Lake Cascade State Park.

fullsizeoutput_4accAs May became June and then July, our site looked more like this!   Ridgeview is one of the busiest campgrounds in the park and we had neighbors coming and going all the time.  

fullsizeoutput_4aceThe Fourth of July week was especially busy.   We were able to watch fireworks over the lake right from our site.   The  lights to the right of the fireworks are some of the dozens of boats on the lake with people getting the best view of all.

Randy gave his all to the east side maintenance position. He enjoyed the people and most of the projects.  He didn’t like irrigating or getting up for the 8:00 am staff meetings held on the east side.  Overall it was a very positive experience and he did a great job. 

fullsizeoutput_4acfThe last project he worked on was assembling new picnic tables.   There was suppose to be a plank marked Idaho State Parks for each the 75 new tables but after unpacking several pallets of planks he found just a few so inscribed.  He hated leaving the project in limbo but until the planks are found, or replaced, that project is on hiatus and left for others to complete.


He also worked on assembling and installing some new fire pits.


The first half of the summer season comes to an end and Team Ridgeview went to dinner to celebrate.  No one covered the campground for a couple hours….oh well!   We enjoyed working with Richard and Tammy a lot!

The plan for the second half had been for us to go to West Mountain campground and be camp-hosts until the end of the season.  As the last week evolved some incoming volunteers canceled and current volunteers accommodated changing plans.  We were agreeable to letting the West Mountain camphosts stay where they were and Randy took the west side maintenance host position.  

His primary project will be to continue the previous host’s work of repairing a pole fence around campgrounds on the west side.

So, Randy will be working to put a roof over our heads for a few more months. (Or more accurately, working for the site for the roof over our heads.)  That is a family joke because we always used my paycheck to pay our mortgage.  I always teased him that I was the one who put a roof over his head. Of course the money he made did EVERYTHING else!

fullsizeoutput_4ab9We are in site 250 at Poison Creek Campground on the west side of Lake Cascade State Park. The nearest town is Donnelly for anyone coming our way.  Our new site is much more spacious. I think we are going to like it!  

fullsizeoutput_4abaAnd if you turn around, the lake is close too.  We are looking forward to getting out the inflatable canoe and paddleboard!

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