Thursday, August 6, 2015

Family Reunion recreation tips from Stueby - Our Fabulous Experience in McCall

Wendy and Ellie on the beach 
Steve and cousin John cruising around on Payette Lake 
L-R, Theo Coonen, Haiti and France, Peter Damon, L.A., John Damon, R.I.
Greg and Sandra Coonen, Andora on the Stueby raft 

Back of the boat: Steve, Drew and Jack Damon  

My sister, Kathy, Minnesota, Nolan and Andrew Stuebner, Maine  

Jonesy at the helm

Hi all,  

Almost 40 Stuebner relatives from all over the globe flocked to McCall last week for seven days of non-stop fun. Our family members just RAVED about the beauty in McCall, and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of structured outdoor activities and hang-loose time as well. 

I wanted to share our experience in terms of the recreation activities, rental toys and rental homes that we lined up in case this might be useful for other folks planning a reunion in McCall. Just to give you a flavor, we had a welcome dinner Sunday night, I took folks mountain biking on Monday morning and then Burgdorf Hot Springs in the afternoon, we did a 4-hour horseback ride with Yahoo Corrals on Tuesday, we went whitewater rafting on Cabarton Wednesday, and capped things off with a catered dinner Thursday night. Friday was an open day for lake activities and beach time, and then folks departed on Saturday.  

First and foremost, the McCall location has it all -- big Payette Lake right there front and center, Ponderosa State Park so close by, top-flight lodging at Shore Lodge, the Payette National Forest all around town, Bear Basin Trails 5 minutes from town, the Payette River down the valley, lift-served activities at Brundage Mountain, great trails and shuttles at Jug Mountain Ranch, ditto at Tamarack, Paul's Market and Ridley's -- both big grocery stores -- plus, excellent outdoor stores, restaurants, shops, ice skating, and many rental properties for lodging.

So, I had confidence that McCall would blow people away with its stunningly beautiful scenery and amenities. We set up a full week for the reunion, July 27-Aug. 1. I encouraged family members to come for the whole time ... and almost everyone did. They all flew into the Boise airport, rented cars and zipped to McCall. We did try to car-pool to the maximum extent possible with our fleet of vehicles.   
Kathy Damon, R.I., Sandra Coonen, Andora, Kathy Stuebner, my sister,
Bryn Stuebner, Mountain View, CA, in the big log cabin in Luck's Point.  
Key things to pin down early: 

1. Rent a lakefront home or several lakefront homes six months in advance or more. I knew my cousins from Rhode Island, Los Angeles, France and Andora would want beach-front access. My Mom rented a beautiful lakefront home a stone's throw from Ponderosa Park. We got lucky on another place, renting a large log cabin in Luck's Point, which had private beachfront space and a boat slip for our use 24/7. The more reasonably priced homes go fast! Expect to pay $500/night or more for lakefront. Check with and for options. 
18-foot Bayliner from RBK Power Sports Rentals rocks! 
2. Rent a power/ski/tube/surf boat that you can use 24/7. Having a powerboat at your disposal with lakefront property and a dock is positively LIVING LARGE in McCall. I tried to rent local in McCall but the vendors up there wouldn't let me keep the boat overnight. So I kept looking and found RBK Power Sports Rentals in Nampa. They have a nice 18-foot Bayliner with a 4.3-liter inboard/outboard engine for $250 a day. I put a 50% deposit down on the boat in the spring, and paid the balance when I picked it up on July 27. I towed the boat to McCall with my truck. Very smooth ride. We had so much fun on that boat -- tubing, water skiing and touring around the lake. 

3. Book early at Shore Lodge for the July time period, which is super high summer season. My aunt and uncle stayed there, plus my brother Jim and his wife, Bryn, stayed there to enjoy some alone time on the week of their anniversary. Getting a tee time was tough for my aunt and uncle but they did play one day on the Whitetail course and loved it. They also enjoyed playing golf at Jug Mountain Ranch.
Group shot in a tall-grass meadow 
Chloe, Peter, Drew, Liz, Tristan and Bridget  

Riding into the meadow 
4. Horseback riding with Yahoo Corrals. We had a large group, thinking initially that we'd have as many as 29 people going on the horseback ride. As it turned out, we had 20. I booked our trip early, and they didn't require a down payment. That was cool since everyone in our group would pay their way on the ride. It was $110/person for a 4-hour horseback ride plus BBQ dinner. Great value for the cost! 

And boy, they took us on a sporting horseback ride! We started at Yahoo Corrals on the west side of Warren Wagon Road, and rode right out onto trails from there. We rode up some steep uphills and downhills, requiring you to lean way forward on the saddle on the uphills or putting all the weight on the stirrups on the downhills. I was so proud of my son, Drew ... it was his first horseback ride and he rode like a champion for 4 hours! Half way through, we rode into a gorgeous mountain meadow and took pics of the group on horseback. Very cool! 

In retrospect, I thought a 2-hour ride would have been plenty, but I didn't want to short my sister, Kathy, Wendy, or my niece, Liz, all of whom love to ride! My only complaint with Yahoo Corrals is that they didn't provide optional beer/wine with dinner. We had to zip back to town to take care of that! No biggie! We were mighty thirsty after the ride! 

5. Finding guides and boats for whitewater rafting. We had 25 people to take rafting, but instead of calling an outfitter, I tried to organize the trip by using my own raft, borrowing more rafts, and persuading my whitewater friends to bring a boat or guide one of them. You have to start early pinning down river guides because they're often busy doing more important trips during the summer 
months. I was fortunate to get Steve Jones, Doug Lawrence and Howard Miller to be our guest guides. Top flight! Wendy and I were the other guides, and it all worked great! The shuttle vehicle situation was too complicated to pull off in one fell swoop, but oh well. Everyone had a great trip on Cabarton. Some of my family had never rafted before. We used all paddle rafts, except Jonesy rowed an oar raft, which are perfect for taking young kids on the river. 

If you don't have your own stuff, try Cascade Raft & Kayak, Bear Valley, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited or Tamarack for booking a Cabarton trip. 

6. Reserve a great spot for a special catered dinner as a grand finale for the guests. We booked a beautiful spot behind the Ponderosa Park Visitor Center. The shelter is shaded. It looks out onto a spacious lawn, large trees and Payette Lake. The cost was about $200.00, very reasonable for a large group. We used Incahoots BBQ as the caterer. They served Tritip and wild salmon, scalloped potatoes, vegetables, salad, and brownies and cobbler for dessert. Yum! 

As the sun set faded into a rouge glow over the distant treetops that evening, my sister Kathy led us all in some wonderful songs with her angelic voice and folk guitar to cap off a memorable evening. 

I must confess that I was unexpectedly emotional as I stood up to give a toast to all of the Stuebner/Damon/Coonen/Salzman relatives that evening. The deep love I have for McCall and everything around it merged with the deep love I have for my family, and I guess it was a little overwhelming. But it was just so cool and gratifying to me that everyone came to McCall, and had such an awesome time. 

Ultimately, at family reunions,it's about the family, renewing bonds and friendships, and catching up on everyone's lives. Quality time! If everyone hadn't shown up, it wouldn't have been the great success that it was. Everyone in my family shows up! And they do it consistently. I love that! 

I'm looking forward to the next reunion! Who knows where it'll be! But I will be there! 
-- SS 


Anonymous said...

Sweet time had by all. I was glad to provide huckleberries, canoes, life jackets, and enchiladas. Love all you guys!

stevelewis said...

One of my favorite outdoor sports, horse back riding. It's fun to see you guys enjoying the outdoor activities. So much fun, family is always important to create a good bond. Thank you for sharing your exciting reunion. Ever since I was a kid I really love following Horse Show Schedules for my past time.