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Goldbug Hot Springs

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Hot Springs of the Northwest

The best hidden gem we uncovered during our travels through Idaho was the Goldbug Hot Springs. Found at the end of a beautiful and moderately-rough hike through a canyon just south of Salmon, these cascading hot springs offer an idyllic experience, far off the beaten track.

Goldbug-Hot-Spring-Idaho

We had been completely unaware of Goldbug’s existence until finding a flyer about it in Salmon’s Chamber of Commerce. It wasn’t in any of the guide books we read, and even most of the locals we would talk with later, from Challis to Sun Valley, hadn’t heard of it. Or perhaps, they pretended not to have heard of it. Goldbug is a paradise, and there’s no better way to ruin paradise than by attracting too many tourists to it.

The trail to the hot springs gets started here in a small parking lot just off Highway 93. The two-mile trail initially skirts through private property, but soon enters public land and becomes increasingly gorgeous as it follows a small stream into a mountain valley. Even without the promise of hot springs, the trail would itself make a great excursion. The final stretch is strenuous, going up into the hills, but the reward waiting at the end makes it all worthwhile.

The Goldbug Hot Springs are a collection of five or six pools complete with waterfalls and a view over an unforgettable valley landscape. The pools are of varying temperatures; warmer nearer the source, cooler further down, but never too hot nor too cold. And the waterfalls are the crowining touch; I sat underneath one for about fifteen minutes, just letting the hot water pound my shoulders and neck. Even if there are other groups visiting the hot springs, the number of pools almost guarantees some solitude.

We stayed much longer than we had planned, and felt like we were floating on clouds during the walk back to the car. Apologies to all the residents of Salmon and Challis who would like to keep Goldbug secret. We can totally understand that. But this is a piece of nature so incredible, that it simply must be shared.

Location of the Trailhead on our Idaho Map

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November 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm Comments (10)

Boulder and Louie Lakes

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Must Have When Hiking: GPS Handheld Device

For the last few miles on the way to the Boulder Lake Trailhead, we were following two buses. School buses. School buses full of peppy children excited for their long-awaited day out. “I can’t believe this”, I hissed at Jürgen. And, of course, they were going on the exact same hike as us. We parked, put on our boots, and then waded into the mess of screaming, happy kids. Off on our big day of pristine nature and peaceful solitude.

Boulder Lake Hike

But despite the inauspicious start, we managed to have a nice time. Quick and inexhaustible little monkeys when alone or in small groups, children slow down considerably when congregated into large herds. We passed them immediately and didn’t slacken our pace until their piercing voices had completely faded into the distance.

So we arrived at Boulder Lake in almost no time at all. It was a moderately difficult hike, through the woods, following a stream uphill, but the view of the dammed-up lake was worth the effort. Set high in a range of granite mountains, Boulder Lake was large and blessfully quiet. We paused for awhile on the ramparts and scouted for wildlife; and only continued on our way when we heard the wild pack of kids nearing behind us.

The path continued east to the unsigned trail which would take us to Louie Lake. Before setting out, it’s worth stopping at the McCall ranger station to get a detailed explanation of the route — we would never have spotted the trail if we hadn’t known exactly what to look for, and where to look for it.

I figured that, after climbing up to Boulder Lake, we were as high as we’d get for the day, but the trail to Louie Lake continued even further uphill. Luckily, the nature was so entrancing that we hardly noticed. By now, the children were a distant memory and the only signs of life were chirping birds and the occasional, curious chipmunk. The views from the highest point of the hike were incredible — the Long Valley of McCall to the west, and nothing but autumn-colored mountains to the east.

We descended until reaching Louie Lake, which was just as big and beautiful as Boulder. From here, it was another mile back to our car. It was a loop of seven miles, which took almost five hours to complete, owing for lunch and photo breaks. Strenuous, but not overly so, it made for an excellent day hike.

Location of the Boulder Lake Trailhead | Beginning of Louie Lake Trail

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September 24, 2012 at 2:33 am Comments (0)

Moose Sighting in the Payette River

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Moose Candy Dispenser (Funny)

On a whim, we decided to return to McCall from Warren by looping around the east side of the Payette Lake. We’d done the western road a few times, and wanted to see something new. And we certainly did: there, standing knee-deep in the North Fork of the Payette River, were two moose.

Moose-Idaho

Two young moose, a bull and a cow, were chilling on the far side of the river, probably 50 feet away. They raised their heads, registering our presence, and then went right back to eating and drinking, utterly unconcerned. We stayed for fifteen minutes watching them.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was get on the internet and read up on moose. The ones we spotted must have been young, because they weren’t as large as fully-grown adults. Bulls can reach seven feet in height, and weigh up to 1500 pounds. Next to bison, moose are the largest land mammal in North America. The ones we had seen weren’t that big, and the bull still had velvet on his antlers.

I also learned it was good that a river had been separating us. Moose can get surprisingly aggressive, particularly when their young are involved. In fact, more people are attacked by moose than by wolves and bears combined! They’re herbivores, with no interest in munching on human bones, so won’t pursue if you run away. Against predators, though, they fight ferociously; battles pitting wolves against moose can last days.

Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned about moose is that they’re not considered endangered at all. I had always just assumed that they were among the rare creatures we’re duty-bound to protect, but they’re so common that they can even be hunted. The non-resident license to kill a moose currently runs at $2100. Funny, since that’s about the same price I would pay to save one.

Location of our Moose Sighting


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September 19, 2012 at 1:38 am Comments (3)

A Whirlwind Tour of Yellowstone Park

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Yellowstone Park Guide Books

We fully subscribe to the concept of “slow traveling”. After all, that’s what the For 91 Days project is all about — dedicating sufficient time to each new destination for comprehensive exploration and total familiarity. So when we arrived at the entrance gate to Yellowstone National Park, it was with conflicting emotions. Excitement, surely, but also frustration. Here we were at one of the wonders of America, and we had a ridiculously tight schedule. Four hours. We had given ourselves just four hours to see one of the most amazing places in the world.

Old-Faithful

Though we didn’t get to explore Yellowstone to our liking, we made the most out of our time. Within minutes of driving into the park, we took a curve and almost smacked into two bison who were moseying down the road without a care. What an introduction! Throughout the day, we were continuously floored by the park’s wild beauty — and by its popularity. Although this was a Tuesday morning at the end of summer, the roads were jam-packed with tourists.

After driving along Yellowstone Lake, we found ourselves at the geyser basin of West Thumb: a small piece of land peppered with bubbling, steaming pools of varying size and color. We parked the car and took a stroll through the area, Jürgen with his finger on the camera shutter, and me with a frustrated eye on the time.

The highlight of our speed-tour through Yellowstone was Old Faithful. A piece of American lore, I doubt any kid grows up in this country without aching to see the geyser spout, and I finally had the chance. The explosion was more impressive than I had expected — having anticipated the moment for so long, I was prepared for disappointment, but I suppose it’s called Old Faithful because it doesn’t disappoint. Ever.

The final stop of our drive was at the Midway Geyser Basin to see the Grand Prismatic Lake. We had a hard time finding a place to park — Yellowstone, the main strip at least, is really not the place to escape into solitude. We shouldered through the crowds along the path, and arrived at the lake harried and frustrated. From far off, we had seen the steam rising off its surface, reflecting the pool’s multiple colors, and the effect was stunning from up close. The intense blues, reds and greens are actually pigmented bacteria which live in the lake.

By the time we finished at the Grand Prismatic Lake, we had completely overstepped our self-imposed four-hour limit, meaning we’d arrive in Idaho much later than expected. But it was worth it. Yellowstone might have been worth postponing Idaho by a couple days let alone a couple hours. It’s a real shame that we didn’t get to stay longer, but I’m fairly confident that we’ll be back someday.

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August 27, 2012 at 1:47 am Comments (5)