I’m a licensed pilot. I flew my own plane for sixteen years, but I was glad not to be at the controls as we made the approach for this landing. It is stunningly beautiful. And scary: mountain peaks, canyons, strong tricky winds, towering ponderosa pines and grand firs with a tight, short runway cut among them.
Ray Arnold, a veteran mountain pilot, was in the left seat, I was in the right, Phyllis in the rear seat of the single engine Cessna 206. We were coming from Cascade, had flown over 8,346-foot Chicken Peak and were looking down on two-and-a-half-million acres of the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness stretching for miles in all directions. It’s a mountainscape that has always attracted tough men and women. A lonely Eden, and, for some, a garden of agony.
At about three thousand feet, Ray banked the plane steeply and finally put us down on the eight-hundred-foot runway that sits on a sloping meadow above the river crossing called Campbell’s Ferry.
We thanked him, unloaded our twenty-odd boxes of gear and watched as the little plane clawed into the air headed straight for the canyon wall across the river. The plane banked left to find the deep canyon opening downriver, banked again to follow the narrow cut, rounded the bend at Lemhi Point and was gone, leaving only the sound of the Salmon River as it made its way past the historic homestead that would be our home. Continue reading →