A June 2002 trip
to McCall by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: This is a journal combining two summer vacations, my first visit to Idaho in 1988 and my second visit to Hrad Cachtice in 2002.
So here's the rub. My first visit to Idaho was with my Dad in June 1988. Dad had moved here in 1987, and my sister and Mom had come out for their first visit from Rhode Island in 1987 while I waited until 1988. Dad had come back to Rhode Island that June for my sister's high school graduation, and we left for Idaho after that. The trip started off with Dad picking up a hitchhiker on Highway 55. The young man turned out to be a passenger on our flight from Chicago, and he owned a canvas store in McCall. PHEW! I was having images of a killer hitchhiker and Mom getting a call to claim my body.
Hitchhiker safely dropped off in front of his business, Dad and I had a great two weeks together hiking and visiting his friends Keith and Lois Moore. It was a bit of culture shock being in the rural surroundings of Idaho and seeing signs of towns that had populations of under 1,000 people, but it all grew on me.
I have fond memories of our hiking adventures, and they will be covered in this journal. We hiked up a trail to the Peak at Brundage Mountain, Hell's Canyon on the Oregon/Idaho border, and finally, an adventure to Crystal Mountain. All of these adventures were done with Dad's loyal companion, Tyler the dog, who is no longer with us.
The final trip in this journal is my June 2002 bike adventure with my Slovak friend Ivan to the haunted ruins of Hrad Cachtice. I had loved my first trip there in September 2001 and wanted to return for further exploration. It was a rainy and wet adventure that left us soaked and chilled, but in the long run, it was worth it for me.
I hope you will enjoy this sentimental journey of past summers with me!
Make sure you are wearing good sturdy sneakers or boots while hiking or biking, and they are broken in to prevent blistering while walking or riding.
Even in the mountains, Idaho being high desert, can get pretty hot in the summer. Make sure you pack enough drinking water and bring a light lunch. In Slovakia, it can get pretty hot, too, and bring a lot of water. Ivan would get the bubble water (Bublinek) and I would make sure that he would get the water that said Bez Bublinek so we wouldn't get dehydrated. The trail to Brundage had many little fresh water ponds, but I wouldn't drink them because of the risk of giardia, which is a nasty disease caused by drinking unfiltered water. Many Idaho trails and Slovak roads don't have public bathrooms, so be prepared to use what Mother Nature offers.Following these tips will make any hiking or biking adventure go smoothly and prevent injuries in the long run.
To get to the entrance to the Brundage Mountain Trail, take Highway 55 100 miles to McCall. After passing the town of McCall, look out for the turn off to the Brundage Mountain Ski Resort on the right side. There is a place to park your car at the beginning of the trail. Dad and I went from a trail near his house that joined the trail, but being a residential area, I would recommend the former way.Crystal Mountain is located off of Lick Creek Road outside of McCall. It can be entered from downtown McCall near Legacy Park. If you need directions or other information, you can call or go on line to the McCall Chamber of Commerce or Google Hell's Canyon or Idaho.
Attraction | "Crystal Mountain"
I had gone on my first trip to Idaho in June 1988, and of course, Dad had to take me for the obligatory trip to Crystal Mountain. What pray tell is all the hoopla about Crystal Mountain? This is a big rock in the middle of nowhere created mostly from quartz crystal.
Dad and I left his house outside of town in the morning for our adventure to Crystal Mountain. We had to park the car in a parking area at the beginning of the trail to the mountain and hike in about 1 1/2-2 miles before getting there. Along the way, Dad pointed out the pyrite (or Fool's Gold) that lined the road. It might look like gold, but it's not and many people who think they can retire early are sadly disappointed.
After a short hike, Dad and I finally arrived at Crystal Mountain. WOW! It was more beautiful in person than in Mom's pictures with the quartz crystal glistening in the sun.
After walking around checking out this natural wonder, Dad and I sat down on a rock overlooking the valley to the rest of the Payette National Forest to have our apples and catch our breath before heading back to the car. We could hear a couple of Bighorn Sheep in the nearby mountains ramming into each other competing for a female, and the noise was echoing to our perch at Crystal Mountain. It was awesome!
Tummies full and done checking out Crystal Mountain, Dad and I headed back down the trail to the car and home, where Tyler, who didn't come with us on this trip greeted us with excitement.
Crystal Mountain is located off of Lick Creek Road near Legacy Park on Payette Lake. This is a wild dirt road that can be closed due to fires in the summer time and only accessible by snowmobile in the winter. Check with a local, McCall Police, or the Chamber of Commerce before embarking on this adventure.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 12, 2007
Crystal Mountain Idaho
Payette National Forest
I returned to Slovakia for a longer stay with my friend Ivan in April 2002, and after being there two months, I was jonesing for a return visit to this mysterious and chilling place that was the sight of so much intrigue and violence during the 16th and early 17th centuries. So, I begged my friend Ivan to go back to Cachtice on his next day off.
It was a cloudy Friday morning when Ivan and I departed from his home in Borovce, Slovakia, for Cachtice. The first time around, Ivan's brother Bohus drove us to Cachtice in his old Skoda, but this time around, we took our bikes to Cachtice.
Cachtice is a village located about 20 miles north of Ivan's home in Borovce. It took about 90 minutes to get to Cachtice, and by then, it was starting to drizzle. Lovely, I thought. But we were so close to the castle and could see it from downtown Cachtice that I could almost smell it! I convinced Ivan even though the rain was coming down harder since we started our adventure to go up the steep hill to the castle.
So off we went to Hrad Cachtice. The rain kept falling and falling, and Ivan and I were getting soaked by the rain. But we kept peddling. Ivan thought I was nuts for wanting to continue the trip, but I wasn't about to give up, and about 30 minutes later, we were at the castle ruins. Countess Alzbeta Bathory's old stomping grounds were even more beautiful this time than they were the first time I was there, and I swear you could hear the screams of the young women who were allegedly killed for their blood for Alzbeta to bathe in or drink to retain her youth.
Ivan and I walked to the tower where Alzbeta Bathory spent her last years locked up as a prisoner of the Thurzo family for her deeds. One could hear Alzbeta's screams to be let out of her tower prison. It was very chilling from me, and that wasn't because of the rain that was now coming down in buckets.
After taking more pictures and looking around Hrad Cachtice, Ivan and I decided to head back down the hill to Cachtice's museum and something to eat. After touring the museum (see entry in first journal), we stopped at this little cafe in Cachtice that served hot soup and bread for a pittance. Ivan ordered a hearty and spicy stew with some bread and Topolcancy beer. There were several locals in the restaurant on their lunch breaks or having a drink, and there was one patron who looked like he was already three sheets to the wind with his red eyes and drunken look, and it was only noon.
The soup was thick and spicy and full of some kind of meat or mushroom. Usually I would ask what kind of meat was in the soup being a semi-vegetarian, but I was too hungry to give a flying rat's butt and ate heartily.
Bellies full, Ivan and I gathered our bikes and courage for the long rainy ride back to his parents' place in Borovce. After taking shelter under a bus stop shelter to let some of the hard rain pass, we were on our way. It took another 90 minute ride back to his parents' place, and by then, Ivan and I were soaked to the skin, and I could hear the squeaky, squishing noise of my sopped sneakers as I walked inside. Ivan and I changed into dry clothing and put our shoes somewhere to dry and took a long nap. It took four days for my sneakers to dry, but fighting the rain and bad weather, I look back on the trip as well worth the time and wet clothes and sneakers. All that to get a Hrad Cachtice fix!
A couple of days after my arrival in Idaho with Dad, the day came to conquer Brundage Peak. Brundage Mountain and Peak are the big mountain chain outside of McCall. Brundage Mountain has a popular ski resort that caters to locals and ski nuts from Boise and points beyond every Winter.
Early in the morning with backpacks on the back and Tyler the dog in tow, off Dad and I went up the trail near his house to Brundage Peak. Dad and I passed Bear Basin first. Bear Basin is a big open area that is popular for the local lumberjacks every fall for woodcutting, and it is also a haven for the bears who frequent the area every summer. Dad and I didn't have any close encounters with Yogi and Boo Boo, but that was for the better. All Mom needed was a phone call from the Valley County Sheriff saying we were mauled by hungry bears in the Idaho woods!
The trail to Brundage is lined with Ponderossa Pine trees. They are huge pine trees with a distinctive vanilla scent. How do I know about this? Dad had me sniffing one of the trees on our first rest break, and I got some of that sap on my butt from sitting under the tree afterwards.
Sticky butt and all, Dad and I started up again up the trail to Brundage Peak. Tyler was running all over the place chasing bugs and jumping in the little ponds that lined the road to cool off. We also saw a deer run across the path, and Tyler had to give chase to Bambi for entertainment.
After a 3-hour and 10-mile hike up a narrow dirt trail, Dad and I made it to the top of Brundage Peak. There is an observation deck along with a Forest Service building at the peak, and Dad and I had our lunch among some great views. From one side of the Peak, you can see The Seven Devils Mountains, which is a chain of seven peaks that look like, duh, devil horns. You can see McCall from here along with other great sights.
After about an hour of resting and picture taking, Dad and I headed back down the trail back home. About halfway down, a man on his bike was coming in the opposite direction and asked Dad how the trail was. It was his first time, and Dad told him it was a steep climb, but the guy said he would give it a shot to get to the Peak. A while later, the man came flying down the hill saying it was too much for him to climb.About 8 hours after starting this trip, our sweaty, sticky, and sunburned bodies made it home to Dad's little cabin. I had a bad knee at the time and wore a huge knee brace. My leg resembled a candy cane for the rest of the summer because my lower leg and thigh were tanned while the part the brace covered was white! People would get a good chuckle at my knee brace tan, but it was a badge of honor to me. Not many 21-year-old women get to hike up a mountain in their lifetime, and I was proud to have accomplished this.The trail to Brundage Mountain is located off of Highway 55 about 3 miles outside of McCall on the right-hand side. There is a parking lot that is very safe for your car. In the summer time, this trail is great for hiking, but I wouldn't go in the fall when hunting season is in full swing, and there are a bunch of crazy drunken rednecks with guns hunting for Bambi (a very scary thought indeed!). In wintertime, the trails are accessible by snowmobile, and there are several snowmobiling competitions throughout the winter. Make sure you are dressed for the season and wear good strong hiking boots or sneakers, bring tons of water, and a light lunch. Sunblock is also a plus, or you will fry. A hike up to Brundage Peak is about 20 miles round trip and worth a full day of your time!
Once again Dad, Tyler, and I jumped in his 1979 Oldsmobile Station Wagon for our adventure to Hell's Canyon along the Idaho/Oregon border. Hell's Canyon is the second largest canyon in the USA next to Arizona's Grand Canyon. At 3,000 feet deep and situated along the raging Snake River, this natural wonder was a popular campsite for the Nez Perce Native American Tribe who summered and fished at the bottom of the canyon.
My Mom is deathly afraid of heights, and it's a miracle that Dad got Mom to hike the treacherous trail at Hell's Canyon at all in 1987. When Dad, Tyler, and I arrived at Hell's Canyon after a 2-hour ride, I understood why and I was surprised that she hiked as far as she did. The trail that Dad and I hiked at Hell's Canyon had canyon wall and bushes on the left. The right side was a very long and steep drop into the Snake River. Dad joked, "I don't know what is worse, snake bites and poison sumac on one side or falling off the cliff!" Locals call the Snake River here "The Kidney Buster Highway" with its raging waves throughout. Dad thought of taking his elderly mother and brother on a boat ride here, but decided not to. Smart move!Dad, Tyler, and I hiked about 2-3 miles on this high trail taking pictures along the way and looking down at the snake river. About two-thirds on the first leg, Dad said, "Let's go faher! This is where you mother chickened out! Hee Hee!" Grr!
After doing that extra mile just to satify His Lordship's oneupmanship on his ex-wife, we turned around and went back to the car. It was boiling hot that day, and Dad, Tyler, and I sat in the shade to have our lunch. There was a little creek in the shade, and Dad filled a container full of water and poured it on Tyler, who was dying in his long thick black fur coat. Then Dad and I had a little sip of the water. Dad said when I got home to Rhode Island to watch out for signs of Giardia, an ugly illness that one gets from drinking unfiltered water. Gee thanks, Dad!
After resting and more pictures, Dad, Tyler, and I headed home to McCall. It turned out that the creek water Dad poured on Tyler had cheet grass in it and had gotten into his eye. Cheet grass is a nasty splinter hard grass that is found all around Idaho. It can get into ones socks and shoes and it wreaks havoc on dogs' and cats' fur and ears by inbedding inside and causing irritation that the veterinarian has to take out.
Tyler's eye was a mess within a couple of days, and Dad had to take him to the veterinarian in McCall. Tyler was kept overnight to have cheet grass removed, and Dad and I picked him up the next morning. Tyler had to be carried to the car by Dad, and his eye was sewn closed to protect it while it healed. "This cost me $70, Tyler! You do that again, and it's the glue factory!" Dad would have been the first to miss Tyler, his goobie! Tyler didn't go to the glue factory that summer and went on to live until 2000 when he died at age 13 doing what he loved most, walking with his Dad!
There are many trails and campsites along Hell's Canyon to go to. The best time is late spring, early summer when it's cool. For more information, go to www.wikpedia.com/hellscanyon.I have wanted to return to Hell's Canyon since my 1988 visit, but weather conditions and a busy work schedule have prevented me. Plus Mom vowed she won't risk another hike along the Snake River! Someday I will return!
After the arduous hike and a couple of hours exploring the castle ruins, it was time to leave to catch our bus back to Ivan's home in Borovce. But Ivan had another path to take to our bus. It was a downhill hike which was a lot easier than the trip up to Tematin to the little village of Luka, which remains untouched by communism and the ages.
Before we entered Luka, Ivan and saw a canal on our path and since it was a hot sunny day, we needed to cool off. So we cupped our hands and threw water on each other to cool off. I had a bandana to protect my scalp from the heat, and I wet that and put it back on my head as temporary relief from the heat.
More relief from the heat in Luka came in the form of the village bar. Ivan and I stopped there for a little refreshment, Topolcany beer. While Ivan was at the bar getting our beers, the town drunk came over to our table and started talking to me in Slovak. Only understanding a little of the language, I pretended to understand the drunk, and I was relieved when Ivan came back and shooed the drunk away after talking with him and giving him about 5 Koruna. I told Ivan I was hoping the drunk wouldn't return to our table thinking he was getting more than a little money, but the drunk stayed away from us while we enjoyed our beers.
After the bar, Ivan and I headed to the bus station on Luka's main street. We passed an old church (Kostol) and the tiny castle (Hrad) that is a public building now that was probably used by the local nobility in its hey day. Ivan and I stopped to take pictures before getting to the bus stop. Both the church and castle were nothing spectacular, but their quaintness warranted a few minutes of taking pictures and looking around before going to the bus stop.
There were some young girls at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Piestany with us, and then our friendly little drunk from the bar showed up and started talking to the girls. They looked a little uncomfortable with the appearance of the town drunk, and then the drunk started taking off his pants either because he was hot or too drunk to control his own behavior. I thought if he had done this at a bus stop in the USA, he would have been thrown in jail the minute he unzipped his fly. It was one of the weirdest experiences with Slovakian drunks during my 3-month stay in Slovakia in 2002.
After a while and to much relief, our bus showed up, and we gratefully climbed aboard for the ride back to Piestany and then to Borovce. Exhausted from the hike to Tematin and fending off drunks, I rested most of the ride and reflected on the day's fun.
Luka can be reached by bus from Piestany if you don't want to hike up from Bezovec to the ruins of Tematin. The trails are rated from Beginner to Expert, and wear good sturdy shoes and be in good shape. Bring a picnic and plenty of water, but there are bars in Bezovec and Luka for you to have a drink afterwards. For more on Hrad Tematin, please read my journal on Hrad Tematin in a previous journal.