Upper Big Creek, paradise lost.

Before I get started, here is a little treat from Challis, Idaho.  One evening while I was relaxing these two deer, probably brother and sister, showed up nearby for dinner…



As you can plainly see, they were right outside the door of my trailer.  I could even walk outside and they didn’t get too concerned.  After about 20 minutes, they walked leisurely over to a nearby creek for a drink.  And then they wandered off into the dusk.

They will be added to my “Kens kritters” computer directory of close encounters with wildlife.  I’m getting quite a collection.

Moving to Upper Big creek is a hassle.  I leave from my campsite at Torres Burnt Creek in on the Upper Salmon River and 9 hours later I’m ready to set up camp 230 miles away.  It a very long drive.  Leaving Torres I drive through Stanley, Idaho, Lowman, Garden Valley, Banks, Cascade and groceries, Warm Lake and RV parking, Landmark, Yellowpine, and finally Big Creek.  The last 50 miles is on dirt roads.  The road from Yellowpine to Big Creek is through some very rough country.  Most of the driving is less than 20 mph along one way roads with turnouts for passing oncoming vehicles.  The road was freshly graded this year, but that has some drawbacks.  If a driver has weak highway tires, that driver is almost guaranteed flat tires.  Yes plural.  You just have to hope those flat tires are in different years. 

I drop my trailer at a campground in Warm Lake.  The road is simply too narrow and rough for hauling in an RV.  Case in point…

Profile slide

This huge slide probably had the road blocked for weeks until it was cleared.  While it didn’t really pose any problem, road damage has to always be considered when traveling in the backcountry.  And I call the Big Creek and Loon Creek areas “backcountry” because of it’s remoteness, even with the road access.  Couple that with meeting automobile traffic and…what the heck?



My boss and I both passed this guy and his little entourage on the Yellowpine side of Profile Gap.  We had to wait as he organized his stock and cleared a place for us to squeeze by on the narrow road.  We passed and didn’t look back, but we both commented about the encounter.  On the way out, here he was was again two days later.  Now he was 10 miles farther along the same narrow road, note that this area is 1 1/2 vehicles wide.   It’s 1/4 mile of backing to Jacobs Ladder flat for me if I meet a trailer here. 

Color me curious, I simply couldn’t resist stopping and chatting with this colorful looking man.

Plainly dressed and covered with tattoos, he was obviously hot and tired.  I pulled up and shut my engine off (noisy Cummins diesel) so as not to spook his animals.  They all started to file by.   One thing led to another and I spent a fascinating 15 minutes with an expat from Los Angeles, California. 

Everything he owns is sitting next to my truck.  A saddle, seven animals, and four packs of belongings.  Look in his left hand.  See the Dr. Pepper?  He had spotted my soda in the cup holder of my rig and asked if he could buy one.  Heck, I gave him one, then another.  Any man that has the guts to live the life John does deserves respect and a soda.   He had hiked 40 miles from Deadwood Reservoir to this point and was muttering about how sore the hooves of his animals were because of the rocky road.  I felt bad when I had to tell him that the road was much the same for many many more miles.  John is a cowboy by profession and he was looking for work, anywhere.  His next planned larger town was New Meadows, Idaho.  That is nearly 80 miles from here!  He was considering visiting his aging parents in Palm Springs this winter.  That is a much longer ride.


I was astounded at the cooperation his horses showed.  Only the packed animals are tethered, the remainder run free.  When John left, the loose horses quickly fell into line as if they were magically on an invisible rope.    I hope I run into him again on the Secesh, I’ll be looking.  I had an idea two days later.  There might be a fit for John at Sulphur Creek ranch.  They need a wrangler/packer and heck, here is one that is obviously free and happy with well trained stock.

Two of his horses were two year old wild Nevada mustangs he had tamed.  The remainder of his stock he had raised from colts.  The trust the animals had in John showed plainly.  The mustangs showed me the whites of their eyes, John mentioned they didn’t trust strangers at all.  But they didn’t even flinch as they plodded by.

No car, no bills, no politics.  No wife and kids.  No taxes.  Just a man, with his horses, the mountains, and a smile.  Thirsty for a cold pop.


Uhhhhhh…Readers, how can you relate to this one?  I sure can’t.

Tagging fish at Upper Big Creek was pleasant this year.  Last year the horse flies were absolutely terrible.  We had to assign people to swat flies while Eric and I tried to concentrate on tagging fish.  This year there were hardly even any mosquitos.  Weird.  But I’ll take it.  How about this for your office for two days?


This was the second morning and the temperature was a brisk 24 degrees when I shot this picture.  The vaguely obscene looking mountain in the upper left is Jacobs Ladder mountain.  There is a huge defile that has split away over the years and created this odd looking feature.  From what I understand, the view from the top of the Big creek drainage is spectacular.

This area used to be one of the highlights of the annual trip to Idaho.  There were large amounts of big game to observe; bear, elk, deer, moose.  The moose were particularly numerous.  But not now.  You are lucky to see a deer.  Why?  Wolves.  I’m going on record to say that I think the reintroduction of wolves to Idaho was a huge mistake.  It shows to people like me that spend a lot of time in the wilderness.  So now this is an area to work in and leave.  Quickly.

I hope John doesn’t lose any of his horses.


About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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