Backcountry Flying/Camping Trip 2013 – Part 1

I reported on last year’s trip to the Idaho backcountry here.  We had such a great time that we decided to do it again this year!  We is me and my neighbor with a Vans RV-4 (among eight other airplanes that he has built himself). I’m late posting this report – we actually made the trip back in June – the weekend of June 13 – 16.

Weather looked good on Thursday and we launched early.


The trip across Utah is always amazing and it did not let us down.







We stopped for fuel at Price, UT then flew over Heber, Park City, and Brigham City before turning slightly west and heading towards Gooding, ID for a final fuel stop before entering the backcountry.


Our plan was to fly up the Smiley Creek drainage and then west to Johnson Creek. However; there was weather at the north end of the little valley in which Smiley Creek sits so we had to cut west early – towards Cascade.  The Sawtooth Mountains are just what they sound like.  This was a spectacular leg of the trip, if not a little unnerving.



The weather wasn’t particularly great at Johnson Creek when we arrived so the first landing was in light rain.  Typically, that is not a big deal but when flying close to big chunks of granite and trees, every little thing matters.

Even with the detour due to weather, we still arrived before 1pm.  These RV’s are pretty amazing aircraft and can travel some very significant distances in pretty short period of time!

Arriving on Thursday allowed us to get a good parking and camping site. However; we did one better with our secret weapon.  A friend in his Cessna 195 had arrived on Wednesday and gotten a superb camping spot for us!  A little tip for those of you planning a Johnson Creek trip.  While you can camp right at your airplane on the side of the runway, the better camping spots are in the trees on the east side of the runway. The sun hits the west side of the runway first.  If there is frost, being on the west side will get your airplane deiced the earliest.  That’s not a big deal to some but we like to get an early start, land at three or four of the backcountry strips, stop for fuel and lunch at McCall, and be back to Johnson Creek before the wind, weather, and/or temperature makes you wish you were back on the ground.


The afternoon was spent setting up camp. One of the many, many things that makes Johnson Creek so amazing is that they supply split firewood for your camp fire. They even have little hand wagons to haul the wood!!  Yes, we hauled a load of wood over to our site.  We also removed our wheel skirts. My RV-4 friend had larger wheels and a bit more ground clearance than I do and may have been ok.  I knew we were going into some strips would likely destroy my skirts so off they came.  Flying naked is more fun anyway.  Of course, we also had to sit at the picnic table within sight of the webcam so we could prove to the world that we had arrived.


We spent a few hours around the campfire telling stores and laughing. Great times!  I really enjoy and feel honored to hear the stores of our veterans.  These are the stories that rarely documented but are our history.  Thank you to our service men and women.  These pitch black nights around the campfire also go a long ways to satisfying that desire for adventure that is ingrained in all men.  Good times!

Note from JD: Part two of this trip can be found here.  Part three is here.

One thought on “Backcountry Flying/Camping Trip 2013 – Part 1

  1. Dustin Woodhouse

    Hi JD,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I’m a newbie backcountry flier, and would love to share the video from this post on my Facebook page for family and friends so they can see what the heck I’m doing when I fly off into the mountains. Your video doesn’t expose any share link, so I’m not sure if you’re open to this kind of request. But if so, would you mind sending me a link via email that I can use to share the vid?

    Thanks much!


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