Love Letters from Big Creek
By Karlene Bayok Edwards
Photos from the Joe and Marcella Bayok Collection
’ve often wondered how my parents got together. They were so different. Mother was tiny, fine-boned, and quick. Dad was tall, big-shouldered, and steadfast. She wanted to live in the city. He wanted to live in the backcountry. She liked people and parties and church on Sundays. He liked spending Sundays catching rainbow trout in the Idaho mountains.
For excitement, I have a young horse for you. He’s sure gentle and broke to ride.
— Letter from Joe Bayok to Marcella Whitney, from Cold Meadows, Idaho Primitive Area,
April 19, 1939, a month before their wedding.
“I thought you rode horses growing up,” Dad said when he helped Mother off her horse and held her up as they walked to a granite outcropping to sit down.
“Sure, I rode horses on our ranch. But not all day long, up and down steep mountain trails like these.” Too tired to be discreet, she pulled the stiff fabric of her new blue jeans away from her saddle-chafed backside.
They had married three days earlier at her family’s small ranch two miles west of Lake Fork, a tiny stopping-off place south of McCall. They honeymooned at the two-story Hotel McCall overlooking Payette Lake. The next morning, they flew by small plane to Big Creek Ranger Station, where Dad had left his horses. Ahead of them were three days and forty-five miles of backcountry mountain trail before they’d reach Cold Meadows, elevation 7,030 feet.