The Shaws Take Flight!
Before we left Durango John and our good friend Mark Stroud had talked about summer plans and the possibility of meeting up on the BT. We knew we wanted to spend time in Idaho and the Strouds had intentions on fly-campig in Idaho (that's camping with your plane) and doing a river trip on the Salmon River. Mark and John have kept in touch and chatted on and off about plans/ideas of how and when to meet up. Essentially, the two ideas were to either meet Mark and his family somewhere and camp together OR Mark would pick us up in his plane and fly us to where they were camped! Sounds fun, right!! As the plans began to shake out, it seemed best to meet them after they got off the Salmon River and before we started our river trip on the Salmon. Here's how it all came together!
From Boise we drove north to MCCall, where we camped on the north end of the lake for one night. The next morning we got up early and drove back into town. John had a phone meeting and while he worked the girls and I hit the grocery store and packed our gear and food for the trip. When John was done, we drove to the McCall airport to wait for Mark to pick us up.
Meanwhile, while we drove to McCall the Strouds finished their last day on the river and then spent the night in Lewiston, ID. The next morning, Mark flew his wife, Carly, and son, Endler, and all their gear from Lewiston, ID to Johnson Creek, ID. They unloaded their plane and Mark then flew back (alone) to McCall to pick us up.
When we saw Mark land we all felt a rush of excitement! Not only were we excited to see our good friends, but we were excited to fly in Mark's plane and have a whole new kind adventure. The turn-around time was quick. We gassed up the plane and loaded our stuff and then ourselves.
The flight from McCall to Johnson Creek was about 15 minutes. The flight was smooth, a little hazy from fire smoke, and really fun. We talked and joked into our headsets while we got a birdseye view of the area. As we came into land on a beautiful, manicured, grassy runway we saw Carly and Endler waving to us on the side of the runway. Our hearts were happy! After hugs and unloading, we settled into our camp which was right next to the runway and where we parked the plane. I know that probably sounds like a bad place to camp, but assure you, it wasn't! We had a great campsite nestled in the trees just above the creek. We had so much fun watching the planes take off and land right from our campsite. This was truly a new experience for the Shaw family! Over the two days at Johnson Creek Mark and Carly taught us a lot about planes and the fly-camping experience. We learned the difference between a 182 and a 210, we can recognize a Taildragger and other backcountry planes, and also know some of the characteristics of a backcountry plane verse a long-distance plane.
We spent two relaxing and lazy days with the Strouds, which is what we all needed. We swam and fished in the creek, hung out at camp, the kids played, and the adults hung out and caught up. Our time with the Strouds was easy, like two pieces of a puzzle fitting together. The girls and Endler came together like no time had passed and of course conversation was easy and free flowing with Mark and Carly. I guess that's the beauty of good friends!
But time goes by quickly when you're having fun and it wasn't long before Mark threw out the idea of us all flying to another backcountry airstrip and staying together for one more night. It didn't take much mulling over on our end before we said yes!
With plans in motion for another night together and an itch to get out of camp and explore, we hopped into one of the courtesy cars and drove it into the town of Yellow Pine. We strolled into the Yellow Pine Tavern where we had a couple drinks and played games with the kids.
The next morning we flew to Big Creek Lodge, another fly-camping destination. With seven people and lots of gear we had to fly in shifts. The Strouds flew first, then the Shaws. Here is Mark coming into land to pick us up from Johnson Creek.
Our day at the lodge was much the same, lazy and happy! We hung out, played games, napped, played music, drank wine and chilled! In the afternoon, while John was playing ukulele and singing songs on the deck, he ended up giving his first "live" show. A local man came by the lodge and ordered a beer and sat down next to us. After he finished his beer he asked John if he was going to continue playing. John was hesitant and said “yes, I was thinking about it“ and the man said “great, I think I’ll get another beer“. John was super pleased and I think the man was too!
We woke up early the next morning to fly back to McCall. We said goodbye to Carly and Endler at Big Creek Lodge. Endler and I shed some tears! On the way back both the girls got a chance to fly the plane.
It was a super emotional goodbye for me. I shed a few tears at Big Creek Lodge, but the tears really flowed when we said goodbye to Mark at the McCall airport. I think the tears came for a number of reasons. One, I often cry at goodbyes. Two, being with Carly and Mark reminded me of how lucky we are to have a great home and great friends in Durango. And lastly, we had three days of absolute relaxation and essentially doing nothing. The down time and our conversations with Mark and Carly allowed me to acknowledge just how much we’ve been doing, the pace that we’ve been keeping, and the work that it takes. It’s not like I want to go home, but while life on the road is amazing, it’s also hard work.