Duck Lake Hike, Payette National Forest, Idaho

     We woke up Thursday and had a breakfast of sausage and pancakes before getting ready for another hike. Once on the road we headed toward McCall before finding Lick Creek Road heading northeast from Payette Lake. After just a few miles the pavement gave way to dirt, and after 13 miles of washboard found the trailhead for Duck Lake. It was another beautiful day! After applying sunscreen and bug juice we headed North from the parking lot. The trail remained level for a little bit before crossing Lick creek where shortly after began its climb. The view of the surrounding peaks were magnificent, especially down the Lick Creek drainage, stunning. The forest along the trail, though sparse, did provide some relief from the sun. Nearing the top of our climb we crossed another sturdy bridge where we took the time to cool off by dipping our hats in the cool creek. Just beyond the creek crossing we found a signed junction for Hum Lake. We went straight continuing north and in a short ways found the outlet for Duck Lake.

     Near the outlet Duck Lake is shallow and marked with tall grasses. On the east side of the lake were granite peaks and to the west more magnificent peaks, the view was spectacular considering how short the hike was. We decided to walk the shore in the hopes to find some rising trout and a nice place to drop the packs and enjoy the trip. We reached a nice camp and found a young lady by herself enjoying a freeze dried lunch near a big pack sitting in the shade. We soon learned her name was Kylie just like our daughters, our Kylie was very excited to find that out. Jameson was intrigued by her as well and had to show her my box of flies we brought along for the hike. Kylie worked for the forest service and was there to survey the area for bighorn sheep due to a pending lawsuit by a wool company that was upset over the forest service plan to reduce grazing for domestic sheep in the high country. Kylie had a lot of work ahead of her as she described how she had to scramble the high peaks above the lake with binoculars to look for the sheep. She complained about her blisters so I offered up some duct tape to aide her heels, which she gladly accepted. During the conversation she brought up the fact that she thought she left her lights on in the truck at the trailhead and was afraid she had a dead battery. I offered to jump the truck and again she was grateful, I grabbed her keys and packed them away in a secure place before saying our goodbyes. We continued up the lake to a nice spot at its far end. The north end of the lake had a stunning meadow, just a nice alpine setting. We hung out for a little bit taking in one last view before we decided to call it quits and made way for the truck.

     The hike out was just as nice as the walk in. Back at the trailhead I quickly found out the forest service truck didn’t need a jump, the lights turn off automatically when the vehicle is shut off. I unplugged the still running cell phone charger and tucked the keys away in the gas cap. We were all hungry from the hike so we took the time to enjoy some chips and ham sandwiches before hitting the road. Back in McCall we went south on 55 out of town toward Lake Cascade and the Long Valley. Just outside of Donnelly we turned left in the the direction of Gold Fork Hot Springs. After driving 6 miles of washboard road we eventually found the hot springs. I dropped off the family and drove back to park the truck then walked back to the spring. We paid our 28 bucks at the yurt and made our way to the pools.

     Gold Fork is an awesome hot spring, at the top of the pools is the source, and the hottest spring, almost to hot to soak a foot in. Just below hottest pool was the largest pool and the most scenic with a natural rock wall bordering on side of it, but unfortunately, still too hot. Below the second pool was a sand pool that was also quite large and almost comfortable enough to soak in. I’m kind of a weenie when it comes to hot water, but at least I was able to soak here a little bit. Below the sand pool were 3 more pools, all to my liking, actually the coolest pool was a bit cold coming in at 88 degrees. We really liked this hotspring, mostly because they weren’t too hot and offered a little more shade, and surprisingly quiet compared to Burgdorf. The kids had a blast of course, we soaked for a good hour and a half before we got sick of the biting flies and decided to get out of there. Back in McCall it was dinner at the McCall Brewery and ice cream at Ice Cream Alley which we enjoyed over a sunset walk on the shore of Payette Lake. Both the food and ice cream were awesome! We got back to camp and pretty much turned in, it was a good long day. Duck Lake is an awesome adventure and the perfect length when hiking with the little ones. We hiked about 2.5 miles round trip with around 300 feet of elevation gain. For more pictures click the link. Duck Lake Hike and Gold Fork Hot Spring

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