Base Camp - Cabin Creek - 24 days

Gabriel Duff – Wilderness Ranger Intern

Appalachian State University

Cabin Creek Ranger Station, Big Creek Trail

June 13th-July 6th

Payette National Forest

Just A Month In The Wilderness… It’s Casual

            “So how exactly are we getting to this ranger station?”

            “You’re going to fly.”

On June 13th, my intern partner (Steve Mantani) and I stepped out onto the McCall Aviation runway. In front of us was a small plane. Within the hour we were in the air, flying over the most beautiful country I had ever seen. From the front passenger seat I could see the snow covered mountains and the snake-like Big Creek directly below me. After a half-hour flight, we banked around a valley and began our approach toward the Cabin Creek runway. The runway itself was much shorter and narrower than I had imagined, but our pilot skillfully landed our aircraft with plenty of room to spare. Steve and I exited the tiny aircraft; two Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns and a US Forest Service Ranger greeted us cheerfully. Within an hour of landing we were already heading out to work on the Big Creek trail towards the Middle Fork. Over the span of two hours I had gone from a small town in Idaho to the most secluded ranger station in the Payette National Forest. Steve and I based out of Cabin Creek for the following twenty-four days…

Each member of our crew carried three tools plus all the gear and food needed for ten days of hard work. The country along Big Creek trail is gorgeous. We worked all day, talked all evening, and slept soundly to the sound of rushing water all night. We sweat, we laughed, and we all quickly became forever friends. If someone were to ask me “what was it like being out there for a whole month?” I would simply tell them exactly this: there is no better way to build a relationship with friends, hone self-reliance, and gain a true appreciation for the wilderness. Wilderness is natural; wilderness is therapeutic for your soul. It isn’t easy being out of the rushing world for that long, but the reward is immeasurable. The experience is difficult to describe. From seeing bears, rattle snakes, snow in July, gorges with pictographs on rocks, and the ever strong flowing Big Creek… All of it has made me truly appreciate the meaning of the word “wild.”

On our final day at Cabin Creek, we gathered around the dinner table for our last meal together as a crew. Our US Forest Service Ranger, Kenny, cooked us the most delicious meal that I could have ever imagined in the backcountry. We played cards until the sun went down and we couldn’t see our cards anymore. True friends. Celebrating after clearing and maintaining the Big Creek trail (20 miles).

Hard work, good company, and the true wilderness experience have made this an unforgettable adventure…

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir