Big Creek Memories

Submitted by Scott Lukehart

It was a rainy mid-June evening in 1962 and we were in the final stretch of my first trip from Boise to Big Creek. Just a few miles from the lodge, my father had stopped our International truck on the road near the river to check on a tire. We were on the Big Creek Road right out in front of the cabin of Napier Edwards. Mr. Edwards it turned out was the eccentric son and last of the Edwards family that had established historic Edwardsville nearby. He was quite a sight.

I was a little kid looking out the truck window when I saw this flashlight-wielding, cane-carrying, bearded character approaching us. He was wearing denim coveralls and looked like the backwoods hermit you might imagine from a classic mountain adventure movie. I thought this was great and jumped out to listen in as my dad talked to “Nape”.

That began a wonderful string of boyhood summers spent at this beautiful spot in Idaho’s backcountry. Every spring, we would get ready by monitoring road and weather reports, and speculating on when the road would open. As the time approached, we began getting our gear out and ready to go. Sometimes, my dad could not wait so once the snow had melted enough in the valley, he would fly in and check out the cabin, roads and situation before our road trip.

The trip from Boise to Big Creek seemed to take forever, especially the first one each summer since we would haul supplies and equipment on a larger truck and it was a slow-go through either Cascade or McCall. The last leg of the trip from Yellow Pine, over Profile Summit and down into Big Creek produced beautiful views of the long-awaited valley and the river below. It was great to be back.

I remember fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding and enjoying the beautiful mountain and valley vistas. At night, particularly on cloudy evenings, it was incredibly dark and quiet, with very few people and only the sound of the nearby river. Days were spent doing chores, checking out the salmon spawning in the river, climbing up to Lick Lake to fish or going down to the lodge at dusk to watch the elk come up to the salt licks across the meadow at the bottom of the hogs back.

Dinner at the lodge was a special event, usually on a Saturday night. Earlier in the day, we would go to our wall-mounted old phone and crank out two-longs, a short and a long – or something like that – to call the lodge and see what was for dinner that night. After a fine meal, we would sit out on the porch and listen to all the grand stories, watch the deer and see the last sunlight climb up over the peaks. Against that beautiful mountain backdrop, it was an unspoiled, tranquil and gorgeous place to be.

Later, at age 11, I graduated to driving my Willys jeep up and down the road through the valley – no license required! Down I went past the airstrip, over to my favorite fishing holes and up to the best hiking spots. I remember stopping at the Big Creek store to buy candy bars and gas up. It was a time to talk to the Forest Service guys, watch the occasional firefighter get equipment ready, or shoot the breeze with visitors and friends.

When summer was winding down and it was time to go back to school, I always looked forward to seeing Nape when he came to Boise to go the State Fair, which he really enjoyed, at least for a couple of days. Nape would stay at the Idanha Hotel when he came into town. It was fun to watch the heads turn in the lobby when Nape, the throwback mountain man, would make his grand entrance.