If you said, “Black,” I’d say, “White.” If you said, “Peas,” I’d say, “Carrots.”
If you said, “Idaho,” I would have said, “Potatoes”—until now.
I don’t bother with a bucket list because I never know where I’m going to wind up, but my “Worth the Trip” list is growing. It’s filled with places I’ve never dreamt of visiting that shine their ways into my soul—places like Idaho and the town of McCall.
We got off the plane in Boise. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought I had time-traveled back a couple of years to when my husband Gary and I visited our daughter Jordan in South America.
Boise sits in a dry valley surrounded by dusty barren mountains, very much like areas we toured in Chile and Argentina. The biggest difference is that everyone I encountered in Idaho spoke English.
McCall is a two-hour drive north of Idaho’s capital city. The winding and vertical road that follows the Payette River is an adventure, but nothing West Virginians can’t handle.
The higher we climbed, the taller the mountains. The taller the mountains, the greener the terrain became. For a good while, all we saw were rafters, foam-tipped rapids, giant vertical pine trees, and signs that read, “Watch for Stock,” “Open Range,” and “Chain Up Area.”
“Chain up area?” I said.
“As in chains for tires in winter,” said my ever-patient husband.
Later, I spied three things I’d only seen in pictures or movies: a cow elk standing majestically on a steep ridge, a biplane circling low in the cloudless sky, and an Appaloosa grazing on a farm.
It felt like we had dropped into an old John Wayne movie. On horseback, we would have scaled those mountain boulders, cut across the flat meadows, and stopped for a cool drink along the river’s bank.
But we were in a rental car. Bummer.
McCall’s charming downtown forms an “L.” Boxes of colorful impatiens line the roof of the Pancake House on the “welcome” end of town. Shore Lodge, our home in McCall, marks the opposite border and rests along the blue waters of Payette Lake.
The Payette River’s public beach is the joint that connects the “L.” Along the inside lines, you’ll find Albertson’s grocery store, Ice Cream Alley, Hotel McCall, along with quaint cafes, and sporting goods stores packed with hunting, fishing, camping, and biking supplies.
All of the above define charm in its purest form, but what drew me in were the lime green flags. There are no traffic lights in downtown McCall, but streetlamps adorn every corner. Attached to each lamppost are 14 tubes—seven per side.
Anyone wishing to cross an intersection takes a lime green flag from a tube and proceeds to the corner, flag in hand. Traffic comes to an immediate halt and remains so until pedestrians make their way over the crosswalk and place the flag in a tube on the opposite corner.
Never—as in ever—have I had so much fun crossing a street. No one complains. No one lays on the horn. No one speeds on through. I had to resist the temptation to carry a flag back and forth, over and over, from one corner to the next.
McCall’s population is just under 3,000. It’s a place where Boy Scouts aren’t embarrassed to wear their uniforms in public, summer is defined by heat with no humidity, daylight hangs around until 10 PM, and locals are happy to show off their town.
All of it put together is a throwback to a different, slower, more peaceful existence.
Gary and I enjoyed breakfast by the water, biked around the lake, and kayaked up the river. We danced under a starry sky to celebrate the newlyweds who so graciously shared their idyllic corner of the world with us.
You say, “McCall, Idaho,” I say, “Simply paradise.”