August 4, 2017 - Hike to B-23 Wreckage

My friend Pete lives in Idaho and knows I'm an airplane nut.  For years, he had been telling me about this World War II airplane wreck he had seen on a hike up in the Idaho mountains in the Payette National Forest.  I knew I would someday have to see it.

Today was the day.  We got up early and were at the trailhead by 8AM.  It was a little cool:  mid-30s since we were fairly high up in the mountains.  I felt pretty good about being able to do the hike since I had just returned from a week of walking around at AirVenture.

Pete and Stan ready to go.

Pete and moi.  The sun is starting to heat things up.
This was really one of the prettiest hikes I've ever done.  The scenery was incredible.
Obviously, a forest fire had come through year a few years ago.
Beautiful country.
The trail was clearly marked and not too strenuous.
Mountain meadow:  one of my favorite things.
We reach the north end of Loon Lake.

Unfortunately, the airplane wreckage was at the south end of Loon Lake.  And there was no trail.

Here we go!

Looking south across Lake Loon.
Working our way around the eastern side of the lake.
The view may have been beautiful, but it was hard work going off-trail.
Many dead trees had fallen over and had to be climbed over. 
Or there was brush that just had to be waded through.  By the end of the day, all our legs were cut up pretty well.
We finally reached the south end and discovered a piece of the airplane, just laying on the ground.
Soon we were at the main wreck:  the fuselage, wing stubs and engine mounts.

The aluminum was in surprisingly good shape.  Just a little surface corrosion.  Nothing that couldn't be scotch-brited out.

I was surprised at how much of the plane was still left 74 years later.  I think because there is no trail too it, not many people come here.

Standing near the vertical stabilizer.  The resemblance to a B-17 tail is unmistakable.
Most of the radial engine has been picked clean, but there are a couple of jugs left.
So, it turns out this airplane was a B-23, which I'd never heard of.  It was a twin-engine bomber, with a B-17 tail and DC-3 wings.  Only 38 of them were ever built.
They had two nicely done info-plaques on the site.
In January 1943, the pilot LT Ore made a forced-landing in the only place he could in this area, on a frozen lake.  The B-23 skidded off the ice into the treeline of the south end of Lake Loon.  Amazingly, the entire crew survived both the landing and the return to civilization.  Read the story below.  I can't even imagine walking out of these mountains in January, with in adequate clothing and little food.  They were iron men in those days.
Frontal shot.
We found the right outer wing when we moved from the fuselage back to the lake.

We even found a piece of the wing -- right or left? -- at the lake's edge.
After eating our lunch by the wreck, we headed back.  Because hiking around the lake had been so arduous, we thought it might be easier to wade along the shore.  Boy were we wrong!  We were lucky not to lose our boots in the mud!
Back into the brush and trees.
We made it back to the north end of Loon Lake.  The off-trail activity had taken a lot out of us.  We were tired.  And although we were back on the trail, we still had almost six miles to go!  Gut check time.
The bridge over the River Secesh.
Hiking alongside the Secesh River.  The beautiful scenery helped take our mind off the fatigue.

Then, finally, there it was:  the Trailhead bridge!  We had hiked over 12 miles today.

We stopped at two bars on the way back to Tamarack.  I felt much better after a few Jack and Gingers.