Dec 2015 Moose Creek Magic by Wendy Beye
By Wendy Beye
Roundup Airport, Montana
One of the most beautiful Idaho backcountry airstrips lies just a short hop west of Hamilton, Montana at the junction of the Selway River and Moose Creek. There are actually two landing strips – one short one with no go-around possible, and a longer one that most visitors use.
The airstrip is in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, and was constructed for forest fire crew access in the 1930s. DC-3s used to land there, and those must have been exciting experiences. The long strip looks deceptively easy, but on a hot windy afternoon, watch out!
My husband and I were allowed the privilege of caretaking the historic Moose Creek Ranger Station from April – October of 2006. We stayed in a log cabin that of course had no electricity. We repaired the water system in the cabin, complete with copper coils in the wood stove so we had hot water for showers. Cooking was accomplished either on the wood stove or a small propane hot plate.
We had two airplanes at the time: a 1948 Aeronca Sedan and a 1959 C-182. I flew dirty laundry and trash out, and supplies/clean laundry back in once/week. I was also still flying fire detection flights for the state of Montana on the weekends, as well as doing a bit of flight instructing in Hamilton.
While we saw a lot of “stupid pilot tricks” on the airstrip, we remember that summer with great fondness. Where else could one go trout fishing in the morning, take a mule ride in the afternoon, and watch elk grazing on a lovely grass airstrip in the evening as the sunset turned rocky canyon walls to gold?
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