Idaho Trails Association: Big Creek project (aka Cabin Creek)


A successful Idaho Trails Association project.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

The following is a pictorial tour of the Big Creek trail that shows the work done by the Idaho Trails Association project of April, 2021. Photos were taken by Dave Beck, except as noted.

Day 1, Sunday

  • Trail miles/gain         4.5/519’
  • Work miles                 0.1
  • Time                           2:00
  • Trees cleared             1

We met at the Krassel Ranger Station in McCall, where we got briefed on the project by Joshua. Then we carpooled over to the Jump Base, where we got a safety brief and loaded the plane.


In three separate flights, we flew into Cabin Creek.


We were finally on our feet at about 4 o'clock. While Team East headed downstream, Team West headed up. Crossing Cabin Creek was exhilarating.

Team West: Tom, Gary, Dave, and I.


Other than the Big Creek lodge area, Cabin Creek is about the biggest opening in the Big Creek drainage. This is looking upstream.


The canyon quickly tightens.


It took us about two hours to get to our first camp. We hadn't walked all that far, but we had sat around at the airport all day. Waiting is exhausting.



Note: I didn't turn the GPS on until we had crossed the creek.


Day 2, Monday

  • Trail miles/gain         11.9/1714’
  • Work miles                 4.5
  • Time                           8:59
  • Trees cleared             5

We got up to gray skies and wind. Not looking very good. But we loaded up and got moving anyway.


It's a beautiful canyon, even if you are wearing rain gear.

Hey, wait. That's not rain, it's snow!

When we got to Acorn Creek, the weather was improving. We decided we'd had enough of the big packs, so made camp. Trailhead
Now carrying just light gear plus trail tools, we continued our march up Big Creek. The plan was to survey the work without doing much, then start work as we were heading downstream. Finally, there's some blue sky above Monumental Bridge. Trailhead

Below- Work. Before and after.

On the left, John and Gary saw while Tom stands ready to pound wedge. On the right, Gary shows clear tread.


Trailhead Trailhead

More work.

On the right, Gary removes branches and staubs, then peels back the bark. Bark contains dirt that dulls a saw.


Trailhead Trailhead

Before every cut, a group discussion evaluates where to cut to maximize efficiency and safety.

Then sawing begins.


Trailhead Trailhead

Continued: On the left, Tom focuses his saw power.

On the right, after the group rolled the log off, we admire open tread.


Trailhead Trailhead

We cut quite a few trees, but most of our work was moving rock off the tread. Not nearly as photogenic. At one point, as we lined up side-by-side in the trail, legs spread wide and rocks flying between, we joked that we looked like four guys trying out to play Center for the Green Bay Packers.


Another before and after shot.

It was nice that we had set up camp before we left, because were were all pretty exhausted when we finally got back.


Trailhead Trailhead
Map Trailhead

Day 3, Tuesday

  • Trail miles/gain         8.3/1120’
  • Work miles                 4.2
  • Time                           7:23
  • Trees cleared             5

Today we would clear trail downstream from Acorn Creek, then return to camp there another night.


A biggie!

On a slope, every tree presents hazards. On a steep slope with a really big tree, it's time to be very careful.

On the right, Tom gives gravity some extra help.


Trailhead Trailhead

A little clean-up, and you have some nice tread.


Here we have stopped for lunch. Someone else had cut these out, but too close to the tread. Nice to sit on, though.

On the right, we do some after-lunch log rolling


Trailhead Trailhead

Same trail, different look.


There must be a corollary to Murphy's Law that says if a tree falls, it will land right in the tread. These are tricky, because you don't want to touch dirt with the saw. And often, such a tree requires several cuts. IN this case, the uphill side prevented using the crosscut, so it was Silky to the rescue.

Also note the burnt stump, preventing that end from easily rolling.

  Trailhead Trailhead

We applied a little wizardry and a lot of muscle.

Then we got to enjoy our work as we marched back up to our camp at Acorn Creek for a second night.

Map Trailhead

Day 4, Wednesday

  • Trail miles/gain         9.1/1050’
  • Work miles                 4.9
  • Time                           8:20
  • Trees cleared             7

As the sun came up, we were loading up our camp and heading back downstream, now walking on cleared tread from yesterday. But that ran out and we were again clearing trail we had previously walked but NOT cleared. Packs on. Packs off. It seems simple enough, but taking big packs on and off is a pain.

In addition to cutting out trees and throwing rocks, we worked several sections of trail where the dirt was sliding downhill at the angle of repose. We had worked this section the day before, but on our return we found that much of it had refilled. sigh. Trailhead
At Cave Creek, where there is a giant cave (surprise!) we found some pretty good boulders in the trail. Fortunately, they were on a slope that allowed us to roll them. We were so busy avoiding being crushed that we forgot to get video of each bouncing all the way to the creek. Trailhead
As we neared Cabin Creek again, we opted to follow the trail up the west side of the creek, opposite the way we had gone down, thus avoiding elevation loss. Thinking ourselves pretty smart we found otherwise when about 5 minutes from the cabin we ran into a giant ponderosa across the trail.

Gary Kunz photos

Trailhead Trailhead


Note: The GPS's batteries died before we got to the cabin.


Day 5, Thursday

  • Trail miles/gain         8.2/661’
  • Work miles                 4.1
  • Time                           5:10
  • Trees cleared             4

Our camp spot at the cabins in Cabin Creek got late sun, so it was still freezing cold (literally) as we headed downhill to meet up with the East team. Even at freezing temperatures we seemed to run into a lot of ticks. Here, we do a group check.

Hey, these trips aren't all serious work. Fellas got to have a little fun, don'cha know?


More before and after shots.
  Trailhead Trailhead
3. 2. 1. Pull! Trailhead Trailhead

And finally, both teams together.

Team West lugged all the tools back upstream while Team East loaded up their camp and followed our footsteps back to Cabin Creek for another night. The precip started just as Team East got to shelter.


Day 6, Friday

We had completed our project a day early, which was a good thing because weather was predicted for Saturday, our original pickup day. Instead, the plane was coming for us today. It was cold and wet this morning, so we enjoyed being near the wood stove in the cabin.

Later, it cleared off and this time the Otter picked us up in a single load, depositing us safely back in McCall just ahead of the multi-day storm. As I write this, there is fresh snow on the ground in McCall. Trailhead
Map Trailhead

For more photos and tall tales of this trip, visit


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