Your Own Private Idaho

Expert Advice

Your Own Private Idaho

It’s 8 o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning. We’re happily camping at the McCall RV Resort in the sweet mountain town of McCall, Idaho and life at this moment could not be better.

Winter camping for us is prime time and we adore it. Outdoor winter snow sports beckon us outside and the warmth of our cozy trailer at the end of the day is a treat in and of itself.

Hubby, B and I start early talks about how our day will unfold and we decide to let this day come as it pleases.  Skiing is on our agenda and we are very excited, but first things first. We allow this morning to start off leisurely with hot coffee and an adorable puppy by our side.

We take it easy and eventually cook breakfast. Some mornings it’s some simple steel cut oats to start our day and others it’s decadent French toast with caramel sauce. It all depends on what we are in the mood for.

We eventually make our way to the lodge, just a few steps from our trailer to enjoy a morning swim and hot tub soak. We have the place to ourselves this sunny morning. Soaking in the hot tub before and after outdoor adventuring days is the best.

We gear up for our ski day, hop in the truck and drive to Brundage Mountain, home of Brundage Mountain Ski Resort. We meet our friend April who knows this mountain like the back of her hand and she gives us a personal tour. The views from the top were breathtaking and everyone here was all smiles and ever so friendly. It was a true pleasure to ski and visit Brundage Mountain.

Oliver is our little canine travel companion and I couldn’t imagine ever taking a trip without him. He has been white water rafting with us, skiing with us and kayaking with us. He’s always there, but there are some activities that he just can’t participate in because it would not be in his best interest. Take, for example, snowmobiling. I haven’t come up with a warm and safe solution for him during an adventure like that. So when I know an outdoor adventure awaits that he sadly can’t join us on, I reach out to the local chamber of commerce and find a good in-home puppy sitter for him.

In addition to finding a puppy-sitter if need be on our trips, I plan ahead and locate animal hospitals in close proximity to where we will be camping. It’s good information to have, just in case. I keep his vet papers and the list of local animal hospital addresses in a plastic page protector hanging in the hall closet door that also holds photos of Oliver (should he become lost, Heaven forbid). I keep a GPS tracker on him when we are outside, again, just in case. It allows me to locate him with my phone should he become lost.

Included in our human first aid kit are a few things for Oliver too, again, just in case.

Knowing Oliver is nice and warm at his puppy sitter’s home, we can relax and enjoy the wild snowmobile ride into Idaho’s backcountry. Our friend Chuck, who runs Cheap Thrills Snowmobiling, shows us the ropes. He spends a good hour with us explaining everything there is to know about these powerful machines. He is careful and precise in his instruction and I feel very confident after his training. Even B is ready to go!

Exploring the backcountry of Idaho is an experience I will never ever forget. The beauty found here from the mountains to the snow covered valleys below was like experiencing a gorgeous painting around every turn. Even hubby had to reel in the reins on me from photo taking. I just couldn’t help myself. At the rate we were going, we would never make it back before dark and we had an exciting destination ahead. We were snowmobiling to the Burgdorf hot springs for a soak, but not before a tour of the mining town of Warren.

After our exhilarating day of snowmobiling, it was time for dinner. We make our way to Hotel McCall which is the heartbeat of downtown McCall and proudly home to Ruperts Restaurant.  Owner and friend, David Carey meets us at the restaurant, as he knows I have wanted to meet Chef Gary Kucy ever since we have arrived in McCall. Gary was named a semifinalist in the esteemed James Beard Awards, which is a huge recognition in the culinary world.

Meeting new people and making friendships along my RVing adventures is something I enjoy and I was so happy to be able to meet Chef Gary Kucy.

We enjoy a warming, comforting apes-ski meal while talking about our outdoor winter adventuring we had on this day.

“Mommy!  We went so fast on those snowmobiles,” B tells me, his eyes wide with excitement. “And the hot springs were so, well, hot!”

We all have a good laugh and enjoy reflecting back on our day. I knew that this trip was really working out to be one of the best trips for B. He was really enjoying the RV vacation life and that makes a mom and dad quite happy.

Soon our server brings us a bowl of sake steamed clams and my taste buds ignite. This was an incredible dish of delicious, complex deep flavors. It is gone in less than sixty seconds, it was that good!

The following morning, it is snowing and hubby goes on a snowcat skiing trip. Snowcat skiing is off-piste alpine skiing that is accessed by a snow cat instead of ski lift. Hubby tells me he enjoys the snowcat skiing conditions that are hard to replicate in the highly manipulated terrain of ski resorts such as powder snow. He also enjoys the long descents and the natural terrain.

So while hubby is off on his off-piste adventure, B, Oliver and I head into town and explore the shops. We spend our day visiting one boutique after another. We stop to have lunch and a hot beverage before we eventually come back to camp.

When hubby comes back to the trailer, it is clear he had a great day snowcat skiing. He tells me about the fun runs he took with his new friends and how the snow was just right. They all had a great time!

After we relax and talk about our day, we realize we should get ready for our dinner adventure in the forest.

Just a little over one mile, deep in the wintry forest of Ponderosa State Park is where we find the Blue Moon Yurt along Lake Payette. Tonight a four course culinary adventure awaits in this picturesque, welcoming yurt.

Only accessible via snowshoeing or Nordic skiing, B and I strap on our snowshoes while hubby clips into his skis. Our friend Lisa who runs the Blue Moon Yurt happens to be skiing in at the same time. She says hello and tells us, “Take your time, enjoy yourselves and once everyone arrives at the yurt is when the party will get started.” 

Freshly covered with powdery snow, the winding trail introduced us to towering Ponderosa pines, wildlife and a feeling of pure contentment and excitement at the evening ahead of us. The trail is dotted with tiki torches, guiding us to the yurt.

As we arrive at the yurt, we remove our snowshoes and slip into the comfortable slippers that we brought along with us in our packs. Stepping into the yurt, we could hardly believe our eyes.

Persian rugs grace the floor of this yurt and the family style tables are decorated with beautiful glowing candles and fine linens. The warmth from the wood-burning fireplace is immediately noticed and we are greeted by smiles from everyone in the yurt. With rosy cheeks and all, we make our way to the big pot of hot spiced mulled wine and help ourselves while B settles down with his hot cocoa.

“This is delicious mommy,” he tells me smiling from ear to ear.

We sit down at our table and introduce ourselves to our soon-to-be new friends. We are all very curious about one another and this is the magic behind the yurt experience. The friendships that come from here can last a lifetime. We learn that our friends are going to be going on a trip to Croatia in the coming summer. I become very excited because one of my best friends regularly visits Croatia so I am able to share a little bit of insight with them. We continue to laugh and share stories about our day. Soon Lisa calls for our attention in order to tell us a story about the history behind a soup we will be enjoying.

“Not too long ago, my friends and I took a trip to Anchorage Alaska and Somai was this beautiful tiny Thai woman cooking in a place called the Thai Market. I don’t know if it’s still there, but when you walked through the doors you headed to the back of the place and there were just a few tables and chairs for patrons. Somai was cooking off of two funky burners pumping out the most amazing food. When we first tasted the soup we thought we had all died and gone to Thai heaven. We were in Alaska for three weeks and we went every other day (if not every day) to have her soup. We were completely addicted!  Somai did eventually share her recipe for this soup with one of my dear friends who in turn, shared it with me. I am happy to be able to cook this soup for you here, in the Blue Moon Yurt. Full of flavors from the galanga root (a cross between ginger and eucalyptus), lemongrass, chilies, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, chicken, straw mushrooms, topped with cilantro & green onions. It truly is a bowl of love. Enjoy!”

Our main course arrives and it is sesame grilled salmon with jade sauce that upon first bite was so juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Alongside was a crunchy salad of shredded Napa cabbage with spicy peanut sauce and a sweet cooling cucumber salad with tri-colored peppers.

We finish off the evening with coffee and a desert of toasted coconut ice cream with a killer rum sauce. B is not a fan of coconut and I will tell you, he ate his and mine.

We said our goodbyes to everyone and headed outside. It was dark and close to midnight as we strapped on our snowshoes and skis. We began to follow the romantic glow from the tiki torches back to the trailhead.

As we snowshoed along, I looked up at the night sky that peeked through the towering Ponderosa pines and noticed how bright the stars were tonight. And then a shooting star!

“Mommy! A shooting star! Quick, make a wish!” B commands

So I make a wish, a wish to continue this wonderful RVing life and for it to never end. That’s one wish that will easily come true.

Chef Gary Kucy’s Sake Steamed Clams with Ginger-Soy Butter


  • 1lb Fresh Manila clams
  • 1 tablespoon Green Onions (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons Ginger (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce or Tamari
  • 3 tablespoons Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Sake
  • 3/4 cups Mixed Julienne Red Peppers and Carrots
  • 2 tablespoons Cilantro Leaves (picked)
  • 1 Rice Paper Sheet (crispy fried (1 each per person))


Step 1: Pre soak clams in cold water for at least one hour to clean, rinse well and set aside. Step 2: To make butter; sauté green onion, garlic and ginger in a small amount of oil until fragrant. Deglaze with soy sauce and cool. Cream soy ginger mixture into butter and set aside. Step 3: Heat a large (6-8 qt) saucepot over medium high heat; add clams and a small amount of oil. Allow clams and pot to heat, add sake and cover to steam. Step 4: After being covered and cooking for approximately 4-5 minutes, check and see if clams are starting to open. Once they begin to open up, add vegetables and ginger-soy butter and cover for another minute. Remove cover and mix in fresh cilantro leaves just before serving. Garnish with crispy fried rice paper.


Just 5 More Minutes

Monica Bennett

Together with her husband and young son, Monica Bennett seeks out nonstop RVing adventures and culinary discoveries in the Pacific Northwest. Her travels on the road inspire her work as a photographer and writer for her blog, “Just 5 More Minutes,” where she shares her passion for cooking in her RV, demonstrates creative DIY crafting projects, and writes about mastering the art of RVing domesticity. The RVing lifestyle is Monica’s escape from her 9-5 as a graphic designer in busy corporate America.