Big Creek Memories

Kif FlyingSubmitted by Colleen Back

Kif Brown was a backcountry adventurer, pilot, business owner, and husband, who left us all too soon, at the age of 53.  Before Kif passed away, he and wife Dawn provided a generous gift to the Idaho Aviation Foundation, in the form of a beautiful backcountry yurt and woodstove hot tub and sauna on a plot of land about a mile from the Big Creek Lodge site.  IAF Will be providing this at reasonable rates to visitors in addition to the rooms that will be available at the lodge.  To understand the yurt and how it became is to know something about Kif.

Kif was born in Seattle, and although life took him to many places beyond Washington, he often returned there to enjoy the waters of the Pacific Northwest.  He became a pilot at 18, and had many aviation career adventures.  He flew skydivers in California (and invented a specialized jump door while he was at it), flew fish in and out of fish camps with a DC-3 in Alaska, flew cargo in a Heliocourier in Puget Sound, and flew gliders in Driggs, Idaho.  He even flew a Sabreliner for a few years out of Jackson, WY and flew aerobatics in an SNJ/T6.  The breadth of the airplanes he flew underscored how much he loved to fly anything and everything.  One of his misadventures included a forced ditching in Puget Sound - at night - and he lived to tell the tale.  OneKif and Dawn web small day while sitting around the campfire with Harrison Ford and sharing stories, Ford said "My gosh Kif, you are a Renaissance Man of flying . . ."

But, his life changed when he flew to Johnson Creek in August of 1999 to attend the famed Harmonica Festival in Yellow Pine.  He didn't know when he arrived that he would meet Dawn, who was camping there with her family that weekend.  Upon meeting, it was love at first sight.  Although Dawn had never been in a small plane prior to that, Kif introduced her to it and flying in the Idaho backcountry became a big part of their lives together.  Dawn, an archery hunter who was born in Michigan but was living in Boise by then, enjoyed the access flying provided.  And Kif simply enjoyed everything aviation-oriented and being 'out there'.

The couple married on June 21, 2003 on the Johnson Creek Airstrip, just to the south of Big Creek.  Many visitors to Yellow Pine and Big Creek met Kif and Dawn, who cheerfully ran the Yellow Pine General Store from 2003-2007.  The General Store provides supplies for those travelling into the backcountry, or who might be enjoying a day-ride into tiny Yellow Pine.

Apart from their everyday lives and running the store, Kif was an avid backcountry skier, and wanted to share his love of the backcountry winters with friends.  He knew that the north side of Profile Summit - near Big Creek - held great snow and amKif Skiing web smallazing skiing terrain.  He was also enamored by the fact that there were few private land holdings surrounded by millions of acres of USFS land.  So, he bought a parcel of land and erected a yurt, then got a Snow Cat, and ran friends and clients in and out of Big Creek from 2004 to 2010.

But, in 2013, Kif was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He and Dawn fought it, and they lived life fully for the next 20 months - and he beat his prognosis by a year and a half.  Even after long and harsh cancer treatments, they were enjoying the outdoors, climbing mountains, skiing and being together.  He was extraordinarily active even two weeks before he died.  It was during this difficult time that he and Dawn donated the lovely land and yurt that he so loved to the Idaho Aviation Foundation.  Yurt Gift.

Dawn has carried out Kif's wishes to help others who have been recently diagnosed with cancer, by equipping them with information and tips which can buy them time that Kif didn't have.  The Kif Brown Foundation has been set up to do this.  Please visit their website.Kif Sunset web small

Although I knew Kif, I am sad that I did not know him well.  I admire his enthusiasm for life, and only hope I can face life's biggest challenge with the determination and attitude he did.  On behalf of the Idaho Aviation Foundation, thank you Kif and Dawn for your very kind donation.