Since temperatures in the Bitterroot Valley have unseasonably hovered slightly above and below zero for the past week, we can’t help but snuggle down and stay warm. But as s a result, my thoughts have wandered to warmer days and fun adventures our family experienced last summer.
One of the great opportunities of having a small engine airplane and living where we do is the chance to access the vast wilderness on either side of the valley – the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness to our west and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to the south. Both protected areas are part of the Bitterroot and Idaho National Forest – the largest expanse of continuous wilderness in the lower 48 states.
It doesn’t take long for your breath to be taken away after clearing the first sets of mountain peaks on either side of the valley – the beauty and tranquility of the vast wilderness leaves you awestruck.
Throughout these wilderness areas are backcountry airstrips – some on public land and many on private land. We took the chance to load up our kids and take a flight to one of these unique airstrips near Sulphur Creek in Idaho. The landowners have fixed up cabins and hired a crew to run the lodge where they offer free access to the landing strip and “two hots and a cot” – lodging as well as a night meal and a big breakfast. The lodge is powered by a hydro-electric generator utilizing a nearby stream and some of their guests arrive on horseback as well.
We arrived at Sulphur Creek Ranch on a Friday evening and enjoyed a great dinner. The next morning we kept hearing more planes land on the strip. That August morning, there were 17 planes lined up and 38 people having breakfast with us. The remote meal was a world away from where we’d all come with no cell phone access and an ice cold mountain lake to play in.
For us, the trip took an hour and 20 minutes from Hamilton. We had friends join us from Twin Falls, Idaho, who chartered a plane from Stanley, Idaho, and they arrived in 12 minutes.
Our quick weekend adventure was truly unforgettable and is highly recommended to anyone who wants to escape into the wilderness for some much needed rejuvenation and awe-inspiring serenity.