1943, eight men boarded an American B-23 twin-engine bomber, also known as the "Dragon Bomber." Leaving Nevada, the crew had just finished their training mission and headed home to Tacoma, Washington. As the Bomber reached Central Oregon, the clouds began to swell, and a snow flurry began to distort the pilot's vision. The sense of urgency became apparent as the plane started to lose altitude. With no other choice, the crew prepped for an emergency landing. The closest airport would be in Boise, Idaho.
The pilot swung the plane around and attempted to contact ground control, getting nothing but static in response. With no communication, the chances for safe landing began to decrease. The snow pounded the plane, and the crew started to get anxious. To make matters worse, ice began to form on the aircraft slowing the maneuverability of this giant patrol aircraft.
The pilot knew they were not going to make it to Boise. The order was given to prepare parachutes and be ready to jump. As the men began to pack their chutes, the pilot found a clearing in the clouds and spotted what looked like an open field and their only chance of landing the aircraft with minimum damage.
The pilot took a chance and nosed the plane down. The supposed clearing was not what it appeared. In fact, it was frozen Loon Lake. The plane slapped against the frozen ice and skidded its way across the surface, slamming into the surrounding trees, shearing off its wings, and coming to a sudden stop.
All the crew survived with only a few broken bones and lacerations. The crew waited five days for help. With no hope of quick rescue, the men had to do something. 3 men volunteered to go for help. Equipped with only one shotgun for protection from bears and wolves and only a few chocolate rations to survive on, they hiked 14 days through the snow as deep as 10 feet in certain places. After traveling 42 miles and summiting the Lick Creek Mountain Range, the men finally found the Lake Fork Guard Station and radio for help. All 8 men survived the accident and the bitter cold.
On August 11th, 2020, Skip, bandit, Ezra, and I made our way to Warren, Idaho, on a bumpy dirt road to hike to the incredible destination we could ever imagine.
Aircrafts have a special place in our family's heart. Skip's father, Doyle, has always worked on airplanes. In high school, Skip worked at the McCall airport, and being surrounded by planes, he fell in love with them. He then joined the United States Army as a 15U "flight Helicopter Mechanic" and served for 6 years working on Chinooks. He planned to get out and become a pilot using his GI bill. The GI Bill wouldn't pay for flight school, so he decided to go to college for business and plans to pay for flight school independently. So being surrounded by planes most of his life, this was a must-do hike.
This 11.9-mile loop that gains 1,295 feet in elevation is not recommended for a day hike backpack in. The trail takes you to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Idaho, and there are multiple spots to camp near the lake. If you decide to make this a day trip and are looking for camping near the trailhead. There is Chinook Campground near the trailhead. Click HERE to explore and reserve your next campsite.
ALWAYS remember to camp 200 feet or further from any body of water to preserve that lake and the creatures within, and make sure you ALWAYS pack it out. Please click HERE and read about the Leave no Trace Project.
Remember to enjoy the scenery while exploring the area. There are so many vivid views with a variety of colors and textures with every footstep. There are Red Columbines, Salmonberry, western Trillium, Green Alder, and fields of wildflowers on the trail.
You may also encounter a Beaver on the river, Elk, deer, a red fox on a trail, and of course, squirrels in every tree. With being out in the wilderness, always make sure you pay attention to your surroundings and be alert for dangerous animals that you may encounter. We always recommend carrying bear spray while hiking.
Ditch the headphones and listen to the birds chirping and the streams that you will encounter. Nature is beautiful, and it's a time for serenity and peace. Plus, for your safety.
This loop is suitable for camping, hiking, history, horseback riding, fishing, and bird watching. Depending on the season you make this trip, you may see a group or two. You will not be alone on this trail. But due to its 11.9 miles and high elevation, it is not overly crowded.
Directions to the trailhead
The three-hour drive to the trailhead from McCall, Idaho, is not the smoothest and nor the fastest.
Take warren wagon road that heads North outside of McCall, across from Lardos Bar and grill.
Take this road for about 30 miles on an attempted paved road that eventually turns to gravel.
Continue another 6 miles on a really rough gravel road through Seashash that will take you to a well-marked sign for Chinook campground.
The trailhead is a mile to the Loon Lake Trailhead.