Loon Lake's High-Mountain Beauty and History

U.S. Air Force Plane

Robert Orr was flying. Piloting an aircraft for the military, Orr lived off of being in the air. Suddenly, something goes wrong. He notices that the plane is low on fuel.Then something else goes wrong. The wings of the plane start to freeze. Trying not to panic, Orr attempts to keep the plane in the air- but to no avail. The plane starts crashing down. Orr shouts out commands to his crew-mates and together they crash land on the icy terrain below. Quickly assessing the situation, Orr is relieved that the 8 members of his crew survived. But his relief was short-lived. One of the crew members was seriously injured and they had no idea where they are.

Staying true to what they had been taught, he and his crew decided to stay with the crash site. Four days after the accident, however, they realized they had to move. The crew split up and three of the men head out to look for help. After six exhausting days of hiking through snow, the three found a cabin with a forest map to figure out where they were. Nine grueling days of hiking later, they finally found a Forest Service building with a phone and were able to call for help.

Today, this story is told in Western Idaho and many travelers go to visit the crash site. Something to make this trip even more worthwhile is the fact that it’s only a half a mile from the famously crystal clear Loon Lake. Located in Idaho’s Payette National Forest, Loon Lake is over 5,000 feet. The journey to the lake can be a day trip of five miles to a backpacking trip of 23 miles. Though you don’t have the challenges Robert Orr and his men had to face, the journey you choose can be just as adventurous- only without the uncertainty that they had to go through.

Payette RiverThe most common journey people take is a five mile round trip a hike along the clear Secesh river through breathtaking meadows. Starting at Dredge Ping near McCall, Idaho, this trail goes through the lodgepole pine forest for four miles then crosses a bridge across the river. Then there is a two mile slope upward through the Lodgepole forest to the beautifully blue lake. Nestled in the forest on a secluded mountaintop, Lake Loon will take your breath away.

If you want a slightly longer journey, you can start at the Chinook Campground and then loop across the campground bridge. This ten mile journey will take you through the twists and turns of a forest untarnished by human touch. You have a chance to see the wildlife that live in these mountains: moose, elk, deer, bear, wolf, cougar, river otters, and even pine marten, to name a few.

Finally, for you serious backpackers out there, there is a 22 mile backpacking trail. This journey begins at Ruby Meadows Trailhead and takes you to Loon Lake where you can camp out for the night. If you want a long journey in the mountains but don’t have any desire to hike for 22 miles, you could ride that trail horseback instead.

If you are planning on camping at the top of the mountain, make sure you pack warm. Even during the summer the temperatures get below freezing at night. Also make sure you take enough water or bring a water filter as none of the water in the area is safe to drink.

Whether you want the adventure of visiting a historical crash site or you want to enjoy the mountain air during a hike to a breathtaking body of water, a trip to Loon Lake is definitely something to seriously consider.

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