Big Creek Memories


Many summer visitors to Big Creek don't get to see it in the hush of winter, or the renewal spring brings.  Thanks to some winter and early spring visitors, you can see what things looked like in the last couple months. 

WINTER:  Here are some photos from a mid-February visit via Steve Burak's ski-equipped C180.  About 2.5 feet of snow covered the runway.  The lodge site area was covered in velvet-smooth snow.

 Ski Plane at Big Creek Feb 2013 webWinter Big Crk 2013 small

 

SPRING:  The good news is most Idaho airstrips are clear of snow already in mid-late April . . . which provides many options for springtime visits.  The bad news is the airstrips are open due to a low snowpack, which could lead to fires and a smoky summer in Idaho for those who love the outdoors.  This shot was taken by Bill Miller and Wally Glass when they checked out Big Creek on April 24th.  At that time, the runway was a bit damp but the south half was usable. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                          

                                                   2013.Late April. Bill Miller

By Allen Hoyt

I have so many positive memories of Big Creek that I hardly know where to start. I was discharged (yes, honorably) from the Navy at Whidbey Island, WA. in 1976 and started my long trek across the states back to the East Coast where IPC12 Big Crk 2006 planned to attend grad school. After about a year delay in Seattle flying float planes for a 135 operator out of Lake Union, I again hit the road and found myself in Boise, Idaho around dinner time at the end of the first day’s drive. Money was scarce in those days so I called my former roommate from the USS Kitty Hawk and bummed a couch for the night. Dick Perkins believed in an old fashioned  type of Happy Hour (whiskey for 2+ hours, no wine or beer allowed) and explained to me that he was the General Manager of a backcountry guest ranch named Mackay Bar. He also managed to insert into the conversation  that they owned 2 turbo 206’s and a 182, finally getting my undivided attention by telling me that his pilot had quit that very day. Well I bit and asked him if I could help. The next morning I was in the left seat of a T-206 and the very first place we landed was Big Creek. Since no damage was done to the aircraft, follow on landings were made at Chamberlain Basin, Mackay Bar, and Hettinger Ranch. The landing at Big Creek was so cool, perhaps because it was the first time I had landed a 206 with wheels instead of floats underneath the fuselage.  Well that started a love affair with flying the Idaho Backcountry that has lasted over 35 years.

 

Every time an acquaintance (new or old) visited us in Boise over the years a flight over the backcountry was offered, weather permitting, with a landing at Big Creek and a visit to the Big Creek Lodge for Breakfast.  I wish I had kept track of each of the trips to Big Creek, but I can say with all honesty that 90% of these folks raved about the trip for months and even years after. I still vividly remember  the expression on the Delta 767 Captain’s face as we flew downwind below the top of the hogback and how he squirmed on base leg before the Big Creek Strip was finally visible.

I have had the pleasure of flying several VIP’s over the years;  flying General  Jimmy Doolittle into Chamberlain Basin for an elk hunt was very special. However, the flight that I most cherished was when my aviation mentor, Ed Stimpson, invited Ed Bolen (President of the National Business Aviation Association, one of the largest and strongest aviation organizations in the world) out to Boise to visit him and Dottie. I had met Ed Bolen several times at various NBAA events over the years but nothing but short introductions resulted because of his limited time at each booth. This was to be Ed’s first trip to Idaho so Ambassador Stimpson and I wanted to make a greatPC12 BC Stimpson Bolen impression on him about flying in Idaho.  From 1995 until 2007 I was fortunate enough to be a part owner of the Western Aircraft Pilatus Dealership so I had access to a PC12 for this flight.  On July 16, 2007 both Ed’s and I flew into Big Creek Lodge for breakfast,  and were joined by several other pilots for a great meal and a great discussion of the many aspects of flying in uncontrolled airspace such as the Idaho Backcountry. After departing Big Creek strip, we flew low level down Big Creek itself and then turned south where Big Creek joins the Middle Fork. After showing Ed all the strips along the Middle Fork, we resumed our climb around Bruce Meadows and cruised at 17,500 until we started our descent into Boise.  I had raved about the PC12 to Ed Stimpson for years so it was such a great feeling to finally fly him and Ed Bolen into Big Creek. With Ed Bolen in the right seat for the entire flight, we had plenty of time to visit and get to know each other.  Ed said that he had no idea that this type of flying was available in Idaho, and he mentioned that it was THE most enjoyable flight he had ever taken.  Well it is now 6 years later, and every time I see Ed Bolen at an NBAA or anywhere else for that matter he never fails to bring up our trip to Big Creek.  Ed Stimpson passed away in Boise several years after the trip, and writing about this special flight into Big Creek just improves the great memories I have of flying the 2 Ed’s into my favorite place in Idaho.

 

As most everyone knows, Big Creek Lodge burned down in 2008. However, like the Phoenix, it will rise again and play a part in hundreds of pilots memories in the years ahead. I would ask that everyone reading this consider a donation to Rebuild Big Creek. As important, please pass the word among all your pilot friends, as well as all those that cherish the Idaho Backcountry, that we can replace this great place where so many memories were forged.