Big Creek Memories

Submitted by Larry Taylor (Idaho)

No history of the Big Creek Lodge would be complete without a chapter on Howard Manley. And perhaps no story demonstrates his optimism that sometimes exceeded “the possible” as well as the story about our January, 1995, snowmobile trip to the lodge.

HowardManley1Manley had purchased Big Creek in the early 1980s and invested a small fortune pursuing his dream of making it a destination resort for members of his recreation association as well as the general public. His dream largely went unfulfilled, and ultimately, it cost him his life.

I worked as a lobbyist in Boise and had joined Manley’s recreation group called Questfinders a few years earlier. When I mentioned I’d like to take a few friends to the lodge for a weekend, including a state senator, he eagerly volunteered to make the arrangements. Because Senator Sheila Sorensen could not leave town until after her afternoon committee meetings, Manley said he would leave in the morning with his snowmobile and sled, tow in a load of food and supplies, cook a gourmet dinner and have the lodge toasty warm by the time we arrived.

At mid-afternoon on the appointed day, the Senator, fellow lobbyist Russ Westerberg, I and our spouses left Boise for Warm Lake where we unloaded our snowmobiles and launched for our first stop, the Yellow Pine Bar. We resumed the trip in the dark with visions of a burning fire, prime rib and red wine only 23 miles away on the other side of Profile Summit.

The visions took a nasty turn a few miles later when we came upon Manley sitting on his old, broken-down snowmobile hooked to our sled of prime rib and red wine. There would be no gourmet dinner; no warm lodge waiting for us. The moonless night hid our tears. Westerberg had a new, two-seat snowmobile with plenty of power. He hooked on the sled, loaded Manley behind him, and we continued our journey. For a few more miles.

On the other side of Profile, a large pine tree had fallen across the road. There was no way around it. Fortunately, another group of snowmobilers had found it first and had begun the sawing. We chipped in and had it cut away within a couple of hours. We finally arrived at the cold, dark lodge after midnight.Howard Manley2

Manley built a roaring fire in the big stove while others found a few cans of stew to warm for dinner/breakfast. We crawled into cold beds and drifted into deep sleeps. For about an hour. Leaking vapors from Manley’s roaring fire set off the smoke alarms. We were not impressing the senator.

The rest of the trip went smoothly by comparison, but it was that first night we all remember. And we remember Howard Manley as a generous man with big dreams who never was able to make everything work quite right. He died in a plane crash near Profile Summit the following fall after winterizing the lodge.