- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A handful of snapshots and some hazy memories.

That’s what we had. Would that be enough for two 50-something trekkers who wanted to retrace their trip into Idaho’s wilderness 39 years later?

We certainly had changed, so how much would nearly four decades of fires, storms, wind, rock slides and avalanches have changed the rugged Bighorn Crags?

Would anything look the same?

That first trip in August 1974 had become family lore. I was 15, and my brother, Marty, 13. We and our dad, Bill Sr., joined Granddad, Foy Simpson, for a weeklong trek in his beloved Bighorn Crags deep in what is now the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness west of Challis and Salmon.

We caught fish and took horseback rides. Then rain and hail soaked our cotton clothes and flannel sleeping bags while we were away from camp.

The wind battered the little lake basin where we camped, then it snowed and hailed and blew some more. The days we spent drying out in camp made it our cozy home away from home.

When we returned to civilization, Richard Nixon had resigned as president.

It was a momentous, life-altering week. But like most teenagers, we grew up, moved away and had families of our own. The trip nearly faded to a family fable.

For decades, we talked about returning. I moved from Oregon to Idaho in 2001, and the talk about a return trip got more and more serious.

But Granddad Foy died in 1993, and none of us knew the trails or the lakes he’d taken us to, or even the trailhead where he parked his old Dodge Power Wagon and horse trailer.

We remembered stopping for breakfast in Challis on the long drive from Granddad’s house in Idaho Falls to the Crags. We remembered hiking past Cathedral Rock. We remembered an icy trail chipped from steep rock called Beaver Slide. We remembered looking from saddles to Airplane and Ship Island and Big Clear lakes.

And we had our photos. A couple snapshots showed trail signs with mileages to Clear Creek, Panther Creek, Goat Lake and other lakes. We studied maps and developed a plan: Start at Crags Campground trailhead, hike the Cathedral Rock trail, then do some detective work.

Had we camped at Heart/Wilson lakes, or somewhere else? Could we find the right places? Would we recognize them after 39 years?


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