Why travel? Is it to leave your daily stresses behind? Spend time with family or friends? Party? For us, it’s about trying things that we wouldn’t experience at home. Whether to enjoy food we can’t find anywhere else or to escape the crowds, our day in the McCall area checked off lots of ideas from our list! To start, we tried a cinnamon roll the size of a dinner plate. Yes, I said DINNER PLATE! Next, we hopped onto snowmobiles and headed into the backcountry for a soak at the Burgdorf Hot Springs. And to finish it all up, we celebrated with a few local brews and some venison to boot. The perfect action-packed day for sure!
A Hometown Pancake House
Excited for the day to start, we got up a little earlier than planned. We love to check out everything we can around ski towns, so throwing on our jackets, we head out the door. First stop is the Pancake House. I know what you’re thinking… “Hey Local Freshies®, isn’t that a chain?” Nope, it’s a local joint here in McCall. With a parking spot right in front, the first thing we notice is how huge the building looks. Swinging open the log cabin style door, we look up to the exposed beams giving a sense of openness and grandeur. With a welcoming “Good Morning”, we sit in a booth and place our order.
Cinnamon Roll Fit For Andre The Giant
As quickly as we ordered, the tasty items arrive. Placing the cinnamon roll in front of us, our jaws drop. This cinnamon roll is so large, you could survive a week in the wilderness on it. The breakfast dessert is warm, gooey, and fluffy. If you have a sweet tooth then you’ll LOVE it! If you’re about venturing a little further into the unknown, the sourdough pancakes are the right choice. You read that right. Sourdough pancakes not sourdough bread. First, they are sour like sourdough bread but then the softest, gooiest pancakes ever. Smothered in syrup, the sweet and sour combination is intense and amazing at the same time. Definitely not for everyone but a must try if you like one-of-a-kind food experiences. After our sweet start to the day, it’s time to head out, so we wrap up the cinnamon roll and get moving.
The “Town Deer”
On our way, we notice deer just chillin’ in people’s yards. We’re not talking one or two but rather dozens just moseying through town. Later on in the day we asked a few locals, “What’s up with the deer?” Apparently, they are famous in town. They’re a decent sized herd showing up after hunting season begins (super smart!). They stay around town, foraging for food throughout the winter, to finally disappear once spring arrives. Talk about a great plan!
Onward To Brundage!
The drive from McCall to Brundage is an easy one. The road slowly meanders its way up to the resort. Just a few miles outside of town is another ski area named Little Ski Hill. This place has been around for 75+ years and is where diehard locals get their start before graduating to Brundage Ski Resort. It’s also a place you can ski at night if you’re looking for something to do in the evening. Passing by Little Ski Hill, we make the climb towards our day’s adventure. Entering the parking lot around 9 am, we’re pleasantly surprised to see a quaint lodge and hardly any cars.
A Local Guide To The Burgdorf Hot Springs
As we check in, we meet our guide for the day, Cody Fox. A true local growing up in the region, his regular gig is with the Forest Service fighting fires in the Western U.S. He’s even been in our neck-of-the-woods when he battled the King fire in Placerville, CA. In the winter though, he spends time guiding folks like us and manning the Brundage TV studio. Talk about a cool deal! Since we’re heading into the backcountry on snowmobiles, we suit up with our beacons, shovels and probes. Like they always say about the backcountry… It’s always better to be over-prepared then get caught by surprise.
We Get The Ferrari Of Snowmobiles!
All suited up, we head over to the snowmobiles. Talk about a total shock! We are outfitted with a pair of ski-doo Summit snowmobiles. We’d gone snowmobiling before but normally they’re touring machines which drive like a 1987 Lincoln Town Car. Instead, we are on the Ferrari of snowmobiles. Talk about responsive and easy to ride. Revving out of the main area, we make a turn and ascend quickly towards the summit pass.
The Tale of Two Rides
With blowing snow and howling wind, we reach the summit and pass through the worst weather conditions of the day. On the other side of the crest, the wind dies down and becomes more comfortable. Pulling into a meadow, Cody asks us if we want to ride through some powder and play. Cody could tell that I was hesitating a bit. He gives me the option to hop on the back of his for a quick ride just to try it. “Sure! What’s the worst that could happen?” Cody hits the throttle and we zoom off into the untracked pow. Bouncing from side to side, we get face-shots turn after turn. It was a combination of snowboarding deep pow while riding a wild horse. Talk about exciting!
A Lap On The Le Mans Race Course
From there it was time to descend to the valley floor. The route had tight banked turns which reminded me more of a Le Mans race course than a normal groomed trail. Navigating down the terrain is exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time. The snow and wind blocked our views of just how steep the drop-offs were on each side, which I appreciated.
Secret Idaho Pillows… Not Potatoes
As we pulled up to a certain segment of switchbacks, Cody stopped and pointed upwards. Where he is pointing is a perfect slope filled with bumps, rollers and pillows that you would find in the Kootenays. With a smile, he says this is one of his favorite secret zones to ride. Making a mental note, I’ll be back another season to check it out.
The Clouds Part Above The Burgdorf Hot Springs
Throughout the journey, swirling wind and snow battered our caravan. As we made the final turn into the valley, the clouds quickly parted and glimpses of blue sky peeked through. It was as if Idaho welcomed us to the Burgdorf Hot Springs. With snowmobile or Nordic ski access only, the hot springs felt as if we were deep in Alaska.
It’s Getting Hot Out Here!
The old weathered wooden buildings had character and charm not seen anywhere else on our trip and in the center of it all sits the steaming hot springs. A natural gravel-bottom pool filled with people enjoying a good soak melts the stresses of life away, miles from civilization. Heated changing rooms sit off to one side of the pool helping us change into our swimsuits without freezing from the wintry weather outside.
Local Freshies® Tip: Entrance fee to Burgdorf Hot Springs is not included with your snowmobile rental so carry a few bucks in your backpack. Also, they’re closed on Wednesdays except on January 1st.
Watching the snow fall lightly onto our heads in the steamy water, we asked if anyone could stay out here on the property. Cody told us that it’s only $40 to stay overnight in one of the cabins AND they include all the things you need to keep warm and comfortable, like lots of firewood! No electricity out here so bring lanterns and candles to get cozy. If there’s a meteor shower or you just want to get away from the city lights, this is the perfect place for you to check out.
After a leisurely soak, we change back into our snow gear and saddle up our iron horses for Brundage. Twenty miles in, zipping through the virgin forest and across the mountainous landscape, we arrive at the resort quicker than expected. Hopping off our steeds, we thank Cody for an amazing day. It was time to celebrate and try one of the local breweries.
Local Brews and Affordable Art
One of the bigger brewing institutions in town is McCall Brewing. Located conveniently a few blocks from Hotel McCall, it was the perfect option after a great day out-and-about. The interior has the comfortable appeal of a mountain cabin but big enough to fit all your friends and family. Once inside, we ordered a flight of beers and a snack. Here’s a few of our favorites on tap:
Wobbily Man Smoked Scotch – This beechwood smoked beer lends itself to the taste of bacon. It starts with a dark chocolate flavor but has a few similarities of a good Scotch such as peat, earth & wood. This is a great option for anyone that enjoys an aged brew.
Say Whut Coconut Porter – The name fits. As you take the first sip, the only thing out of your mouth is “Say whut?!?” It reminded me of when you’re a kid and Mom would bake your favorite cookies with coconut shavings on top. She told you not to eat them but when she turned around, you quickly grabbed a face full. That’s exactly how this beer tastes.
Devious Intent Imperial Stout – A dark moody beverage that is complex on all levels. It begins with smooth iced coffee notes and finishes with a malted milk ball flavor. Talk about interesting and definitely worth a try.
Minimalist Bane IPA – An English Style IPA, it has the English Style Ale flavors but with IPA tendencies. Don’t expect a ton of hoppiness but just enough to peak your curiosity.
Beer and Cheese Are Best Friends
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, we highly suggest trying the Beer Cheese Soup. It has the taste of aged cheddar with a hint of beer. If you order fries on the side, you can dip them right into the soup… better than any ketchup option! Not wanting to waste a drop of their precious beer, the soup itself is made from all the over pour beer. Talk about inventive and a flavor that would be hard for anyone to duplicate.
With a bit of time left before dinner, we headed across the street to Gallery 55. For anyone that has visited an art gallery in a ski town like Aspen or Jackson Hole, the price tag for items are usually in the tens of thousands of dollars making it more a museum than a shop. Gallery 55 is NOT that type of gallery. Prices range from $30 to $500 meaning anyone can buy something beautiful. They keep their costs down by having their artists work 2 days/month at the gallery, made possible as they showcase local and regional artists. From sculptures to paintings and photos to jewelry, there really is something for everyone.
5 Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence
With our stomachs rumbling, it was time to head to dinner at the Shore Lodge. There are several options for dining at this classic lodge – The Narrows Steakhouse, The Bar and the Cutwater on Payette Lake. If you’re looking for very fine dining, The Narrows Steakhouse is the way to go. They’ve been awarded with FIVE Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence. For tonight, we are feeling something a bit more low key. The Bar is perfect for us as it serves a great menu but in a bar setting.
High Class Lodging That’s Accessible
As you step into the lodge, there is a sense of prestige but without the pompous attitude. The interior is decorated with taxidermy mounts, leather couches and fireplaces, and the staff is attentive and high caliber. This focus on service and attention to detail are proven by being rated as the 3rd Best Resort in the Western U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler. Walking past the front desk and into The Bar, we sit down at the bar ordering beers and some food.
Cajun Venison Dumplings Are A Must Try
Of course you can try the burger, but when on a journey, we look for things that we can’t have anywhere else. Immediately, the Cajun Venison dumplings peaked our interest. The dish came out in a large bowl filled with chunks of venison that you would see from a pot roast. The sauce and meat had spicy Cajun seasoning with no hint of game taste at all. The house made dumplings were dense yet creamy and matched perfectly with the large pieces of venison. It was a classic hearty dish perfect for a cold evening. If looking for a lighter fare, the Idaho blackened trout tacos are also insanely good.