Smiley Creek Trip Report 2002

by Paul A. Rosales

Hi All! Victoria and I finally took our RV-6A friends Ed & Marie Bundy up on flying to Smiley Creek (U87), a back-country airstrip (7100' elevation) in Idaho, for the weekend. I've been hearing about 'Smiley' for a couple of years now and finally found a weekend that wasn't already 'flight-planned' :-) We departed Rosamond (L00) at 0730 Saturday morning and arrived to Sunrise Skypark (ID40), near Boise, around 1100, non-stop, flying under clear skies, no wind. Our route of flight took us over Trona, Stovepipe Wells, Tonopah, and Battle Mountain. Ed & Marie were already there visiting with Rob & Fay Acker, formerly of SoCAL, who are getting ready for the first flight of their RV-6. We were then off for a 5 minute hop, flying off Ed's wing first, to Nampa (S67) for fuel (29.2 gallons) then ~20 minutes to Garden Valley (U88) for a bag lunch. I never did see this grass runway until about 1 mile out on final as it's 'one way in, one way out'. It was hidden in the 'Valley', true to its name. We've now had the chance to land on grass 10 times or so, and it's a whole different feeling having the tires gently 'sliding' on the grass as you roll out. If you have your choice of paved or grass, take the grass! The following pictures show the approach and one looking the opposite direction as this runway (like many in Idaho) is 'One way in, one way out!'

After eating lunch on picnic tables that overlook both the airstrip and a river (complete with rafters), we departed towards Smiley Creek. The scenery here in the mountains of Idaho is just spectacular! Ed & Marie led us through a very impressive mountain range: the Sawtooth Mountain Range. They reminded me more of shark teeth, awesome!

Exiting the mountain range on the east side had us flying into Smiley which lies more on plain, and we could see the grass runway from 10 miles out. Another 'slider' landing on freshly cut grass put us there less than an hour out from Nampa. We unpacked and buttoned up the planes for the day. I had no idea that the pilots of Idaho all pay a nominal $16/year fee that goes to airport improvements/upkeep of their airports, and I can tell you, the money is being used well!!! The 'cabin' that was used for the restroom was, as Marie put it, 5-STAR: Clean-CLEAN as could be; heated restroom, shiny-chrome fixtures, cedar-lined walls with showers that had hot-HOT water! I didn't consider camping here 'roughing it'!

The campgrounds, only 50yds from your plane, are available free to pilots only, no drive-in camping allowed. We setup our tents and got 'bundled' up as we knew we were in for a chilly night: The town of Stanley, located only a few 'RV' minutes to the north, had the nation's LOW temperature the night before at 25F deg! Hey, we weren't packed for 'below-freezing' weather!

After enjoying the sunset and visiting around the camp, we walked about 200 yards to the Smiley Creek Lodge for dinner. This place is 'all-wood' inside with big windows to enjoy the huge mountains seen all around. My steak dinner was excellent, and we finished up the evening visiting wth Mountain Man "Black Kettle" and playing Checkers (when was the last time YOU played Checkers?!?). We also enjoyed milkshakes and sundaes from the small ice cream parlor also located inside. After walking to the end of the 5000' runway and back, we settled in for the night.

We THOUGHT we were bundled up enough and found that our 32F deg sleeping bags don't work so well when the temps get below 32F! When leaving home, we didn't realize it would be that cold and later found we should have packed some extra blankets as IT WAS COLD! I was up at 2am and found the temp at 28F deg, WOW! If I was cold, I knew that Victoria was freezing! We wrapped clothes around our feet and threw what we could over us! I really didn't get that great of a sleep until the sun came up then I got some 'better' sleep. The morning sun quickly warmed us up (I slept until 9am), and the hot-water shower helped dethaw my 'frozen' wife. We walked back to the Lodge for a nice breakfast then packed up, took a group picture and departed (formation) back towards Boise, once again overflying those beautiful Sawtooth Mountains and beautiful mountain lakes!

We fueled at Nampa again ($2.09/gal) before heading back to Sunrise where we found Rob & Fay working diligently on their RV-6 (that's the only way to work when you are close to flying!). We enjoyed another hour or so 'hangar' flying, which is ALWAYS fun, before heading home using the same route in reverse. The only difference is that the afternoon flight is always 'bumpy' with a headwind thrown in. This requires that we stop to 'top' the tanks at Battle Mountain (BAM), about an hour's flight out of Sunrise. Our flight home was about 3.9 hours, and we encountered some 'fire' haze near Death Valley all the way into the Antelope Valley. We had dinner at the Golden Cantina (Mexican) Restaurant on-field at Rosamond, and put the plane away with 10.1 hours for the weekend :-) I have some baffle repairs to take care of this week then we are off with others from SoCAL Wing - VAF to Portland and Van's Homecoming for the Labor Day weekend. I'm SO glad that we finished our 5 years of building so that we can fly!!!!!! Building was 'ok' but flying is 'GREAT'! After this trip, I'm looking forward to planning a SoCAL RV 3-day flyout next year back to Smiley Creek.

As Ed Bundy always told me when I was building: Keep poundin' them rivets! Paul & Victoria

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