Wong’s Bowl…have you heard of it? If you snowmobile or have snowmobiled in McCall, you are probably well aware of Wong’s Bowl.
Meet the Wong Family. Please forgive me as I type with tears in my eyes. This session is one for the books! Man! This session is a huge reason I do what I do and how I do it!! My favorite quote, “If you do something for the right reasons, nothing will stop you.”
The Wong kids surprised their mom with a family portrait session in Wong’s Bowl. A bowl she had heard of, a bowl named after her late husband, a bowl her late husband and son used to frequent in the winter years ago, a bowl she had NEVER been to. The original plan was to go during the winter, the season it is known for. Logistically we had a hard time trying to figure out how to get 11 people there without paying an arm and a leg to rent snowmobiles, etc. So, the session was moved to summer. No one had ever been there in the summer!! If you look at a satellite map it looked brown and ugly. We weren’t sure what to think or expect.
If you ask anyone that rides snowmobiles, they can get to Wongs Bowl on a snowmobile but hiking to it in the summer everyone was clueless! Everyone! Even the snowmobile club that has ridden the bowl for 20+ years!
My family arrived in McCall on July 7 for a week long get away and work trip. We love the mountains and decided to hike in the area we thought Wong’s Bowl was located. We didn’t have any coordinates, we just had an idea. We hiked into four bowls that evening. It was so beautiful, tons of animal tracks, saw a handful of elk, it was amazing! The first bowl we still had patchy service and Roger (my husband) was on top of a rock making phone calls and asking friends and acquaintances where Wong’s Bowl was located. He kept getting the same answer, “I can find it on a snowmobile”. One bowl (the second bowl) I took video and lots of pictures because it was so magical! When we got back into town and had service we had a text message with the coordinates…it was the second bowl, the extra magical one!!!
Quite honestly, I felt a bit defeated. I’m not one to give up but I thought the hike was pretty tough to get all of us up there for a session. I cried a little and felt like the breath was knocked out of me. This was a big deal. I think I was tired with some other news that evening that I needed to sleep on it. A good nights rest and the help of my husband, we weren’t ready to give up. The next day we went mountain biking at Jug and then later in the evening we decided to try the hike again. This time a straight shot from the road to the bowl. This is hiking like hunting hiking, not a trail. No trails other than occasional game trails. We set out on our adventure. Took us 45 minutes to get to the bowl, still a pretty steep hike but way better than the previous day. We now had a plan.
My text to the family: Hey ladies! We have hiked our little hearts out and have found Wong’s Bowl. I am attaching a list of things you will need and a timeline of events. We have made many calls and no one knows where “Wong’s Bowl” sign is.
Cow call (for fun, LOTS of elk)
Flashlights (we may not need these but just in case)
Camelbacks (full of ice water)
Walking sticks (for Nicki)
Bug spray (for sure!)
Allergy meds (if anyone has allergies)
I have a 1/2 hour planned to change to photo clothes and freshen up. You will sweat! So, apply makeup up there? Your call. Bring wet wipes to clean up. Maybe one camelback per family for water. Snacks! It is going to be an adventure.
3:15 meet at intersection of where you turn off the highway to head to Brundage
3:20-4:00 Drive to trailhead
400-5:45 hike (took us 45 minutes but we think it will take the group longer)
5:45-6:15 freshen up
Now about the sign. Todd Wong remembered a sign that said “Wong’s Bowl”. When we hiked the four bowls, we looked for this sign. Roger asked everyone he knew where the sign is. No one seemed to know. No one said they had ever seen it. We had one really good tip. “If it’s out there, it’s at an intersection.”
So, on our second day of hiking in, we stopped at every intersection on the drive in and walked the area looking for a sign. The first intersection I found a piece of wood that looked like it could be a sign underneath a tree. I called Roger over and crawled under the tree and turned it over. Of course
holding our breath to see if it was the sign that Todd talked about. Nope…it was just a piece of wood. We jump in the van and head to the next intersection where we ultimately turn off to park and start the hike. Roger is cruising along and suddenly pulls the van over and slams on the brakes! You know,
like a super crazy driver. I said, “what in the heck are you doing?” He points about 16 feet up a tree. And wouldn’t you know it…and old sign that says, “Wong’s (picture of a bowl)”. I immediately get very emotional, like I am now as I type it. Why am I so emotional? Nicki, Todd and Paige’s mom reached out to me before this day and really wanted a picture of the sign. She really wanted to see it. Remember, this is the bowl that was named after her late husband, the bowl her late husband and son used to frequent, the bowl she had never been to.
So, the text above was a bit of a lie, but we wanted it to be a surprise.
Okay, finally picture day. July 11, 2020. Lolly Wong passed away July 13, 2001. Very memorable time of year. Everyone shows up on time. We all make the drive to the location. Remember, no one knows about the sign. We pull over early. Have everyone get out of the car and I tell them that I want to
get a quick cell phone picture of them right before we start hiking. Everyone is in their hiking clothes, no one suspects a thing. No one even sees the sign (remember, it’s like 16 feet up a tree). I have them huddle up for a picture right below the sign. I take a cell phone pic. We get some funny shots because one of
the dogs decides to poop in the shot. We are all laughing. I then turn it to video and tell them to turn around. They see it! But they think I made it and put it there! So funny! Nope!! Come to find out, Todd didn’t know about this sign, he knew of another sign out there that we have still never found but it is out there.
Smiles and hugs and thank you’s all around!!
We jump in our cars and finish the drive to the “trailhead”. Everyone was so prepared…water, backpacks, bug spray, snacks, walking sticks, hiking boots, etc. We started our trek. Nicki is amazing! She is 68 years old and she was going to make it to Wong’s Bowl. I was so amazed at her drive and determination.
Everyone hiked at a great pace to enjoy the view and stop in the shade to take a break when needed. Roger was our guide and none of this would have happened without his knowledge and determination. We sure make a great team! As we approach the bowl (approximately 1.25 miles), Roger points out the bowl to Nicki.
At this point nothing was stopping her. As we arrived at the bowl, Nicki is wiping tears from her face, Todd is pointing and talking about all the memories that are flooding his mind, the kids are running through the wild flowers, the dogs went straight to the water and mud. My emotions were high as tears wouldn’t stop coming out of my eyes! Proud? Amazed? Surprised? Thankful? Yeah, all of the above! We did it!! We got all 9 of us and 3 dogs to the magical location!
We found some logs and some shade and got picture ready. Me looking over the bowl and my ideas on where I want to start. Roger walked the entire bowl and picked up garbage (shame on the snowmobilers for so much trash left behind), everyone else was changing clothes, cleaning up, putting on makeup, doing hair. There were hand mirrors hanging on the trees, snacks and beverages being consumed, hammocks being set up, dogs getting dirty.
We went through a lot of mosquito spray, they were awful! I actually had to edit quite a few out of the images. We used rocks and logs to pose on and for me to stand on to get taller. I didn’t want to haul my step ladder up there. We got a few images of the entire group, each family, the cousins, Nicki and her kids, Nicki and her grandkids and of course Todd and Paige so they can finally post a picture on “National Sibling Day”. haha
I want to thank this family for moving forward with what seemed like an impossible adventure. It turned into an experience that no one will ever forget! I hope you all get to go back to Wong’s Bowl in whatever season you want. I know Lolly was with us that night. Heck, with us that week! I never met him but I know he was
super special! You are all super special! I love you all!! Thank you for trusting me with this experience!
Now I ask my readers (if you stuck with me until here), where would your magical family session location be, and why?