Smiley Creek Trip Report 2003

by Paul A. Rosales

I’ve been fairly short on time this week and am finally getting out my 4th of July Trip report out to Smiley Creek (U87), Idaho :-) Dave Guthmiller beat us to Smiley Creek by a few days; Thanks for your trip report Dave! I'll have pictures posted here sometime next week. Chuck and Pam Miller (RV-8A) arrived at Rosamond Skypark (L00) Thursday evening July 3rd as they wanted to make sure they did not get stuck under an overcast. Friday morning, July 4th, Chuck and I took off about 9:30am and joined up with Laird Owens (RV-6) who was circling above. We flew ‘cruise-spread’ through the Trona Gap north past Stovepipe Wells, Beatty and Tonopah landing at Battle Mountain (BAM), NV around 11am. BAM is a base for firefighting aircraft and we visited with a pilot for a bit, himself an RV-4 builder.

We were met by Todd and Sue Ehlinger who arrived earlier in their recently completed RV-6A. They’d left Chino (CNO) the day before and spent the night near their property in Alturas, CA. After fueling, we borrowed the two airport cars and enjoyed lunch at the Owl Restaurant & Casino in ‘downtown’ Battle Mountain. A 1pm takeoff had our now 4-ship group to Caldwell (EUL) airport near Boise, ID in about 1.5 hours. Having made this trip several times now, I can tell you there is pretty much NOTHING much to see other than desert when flying from Rosamond to Boise...well, we could see Mt. Whitney in the distance! Gary & Carolyn Zilik (RV-6A) had flown in from the Denver area to Caldwell about midday (we’d lost an hour to MST) and were picked up by Ed & Marie Bundy (RV-6A), who base their RV-6A at nearby Sunrise Skypark (ID40). Ed drove them out to his property in Eagle and showed them the house he and Marie are building on 5 acres. Here's part of the group, front left and moving clockwise: Laird, Todd, Victoria, Chuck, Sue, Pam, Carolyn and Gary.

The plan was to fly a 5-ship to Sunrise Skypark while Ed & Marie drove their car there to get their plane out of the hangar; however, Todd’s plane lost the right brake on takeoff from Caldwell. Laird turned back to check on Todd while the rest of us continued to Sunrise Skypark, about a 10 minute flight. While Ed was getting his plane ready, I saw a house on the Skypark that just didn't quite look right...I finally figured out that I was looking at a house in front of a house with matching roof lines :-)

Ed, Gary, Chuck and I flew back to Caldwell to find Todd up to his elbows in brake fluid, luckily under the shade of a tree. He had the brake puck in his hand with along with a ‘2-piece’ o-ring...there we were, July 4th holiday, around 6pm local time with a plane needing an o-ring...and I just happened to have TWO of them! Last year (I believe), we were leaving the Land of Enchantment RV fly-in for home, and Jay Pratt had the same problem, broken o-ring. Unfortunately, nobody had one and we left him there not knowing where he’d find one :-( After seeing that, I ordered some spare o-rings for my tool kit ‘just in case that was me’! We thought it prudent that Todd change out both o-rings since the one he pulled out was square-shaped and brittle. A local FBO happened to have the hangar door open so Todd was able to borrow some brake fluid and a squirt-can to pump :-)

With 6 planes now airworthy, we fueled then departed Caldwell about 7:45 pm for Smiley Creek. Being in the northern latitudes, we still had plenty of sunshine but needed to get to Smiley to have dinner at the lodge before it closed at 9pm. The lodge is maybe 150 yards from the campsite which is very convenient when you are not packing-in food! A quick flight though the Sawtooth Mountain range and landing on the 4900’ grass runway at Smiley had us tied down and walking into the lodge at 8:45pm.

Another addition to the group was Jim & Joanie Wolf (RV-6) based out of Chino who had arrived earlier in the day. Jim, an avid fisherman, spent the day fishing for Salmon while Joanie enjoyed some quiet reading time!

Dinner included Prime Rib for some of us, and we were able to get the tents up after 10pm in the evening twilight. Laird got a bonfire going (nothing beats 100LL for starter fluid) using stacked wood available for this purpose. I’m sure all of you know how nice it is to sit around a fire with friends :-) Someone pulled out a bag of marshmallows but it turned out to be one, big (melted) marshmallow!

Our seven planes were the only ones who were camping out though there were numerous other planes tied-down. Overnight temps were in the low 30s with everyone all bundled up nice and warm (I hope!). My US Army brother had sent us some ‘Special Forces’ lightweight camo-blankets for Christmas, and they worked well.

Saturday morning, Ed suggested possibly having breakfast at a private backcountry strip, Sulphur Creek Ranch Airport (ID74). You can either hike, ride or fly in as there are no roads to drive there. Sulphur Creek was about a 20 minute flight north and took us over Stanley, ID which is sometimes the coldest point in the nation during the summer months. After polling the group on whether they wanted to land on a gravel runway, Gary, Ed, Laird and myself decided to at least go look-see. Upon arrival, we ‘voted’ Ed & Marie to fly in and check out the runway (e.g. land) before the rest of us went in. While circling overhead, another plane called us asking if we were landing Sulphur Creek. Ed was on final approach and I replied, "We’ve got a 1-ship ‘Recon’ going in now, awaiting instruction..." Roger that! Ed reported back, "It’s not too bad.." so the three of us followed, and it wasn’t "too bad"! The runway started out grass/gravel then turned into ‘wavy’ gravel. Afterwards, Laird commented that he now knows how to land on a narrow, gravel road in case of an emergency :-) I think we ALL do now!

Breakfast was in a rustic cabin next to the runway, and the cook took your order, served your food then took your money :-) There was no menu and breakfast consisted of an omelets, potatoes, ham and biscuits for $9. It was good! When it came time to pay, Gary was in for a quite a surprise when he pulled out cash to pay for breakfast.....

Departure on the 1-way in, 1-way out runway had me taking off first and leaving in a cloud of dust. The others followed though I’m not sure how much of the runway they saw ;-) Arrival back to Smiley was a 4-ship formation with a left break and we later heard from the (pilot) Lodge owner he really enjoyed watching it. We spent the rest of the day hangar-flying, lunching, napping, cleaning planes, (Jim) fishing but mostly sitting around enjoying being with our friends, ALL made possible because we all built RVs! Another fine dinner was had at the Smiley Creek Lodge followed by another bonfire. This time, we were joined by a couple who’d flown a C-182 in earlier and pitched a tent nearby. Rob and Nancy brought marshmallows with them, and we passed around Chuck’s two telescoping marshmallow had to be there; FUN, FUN, FUN! Sunday morning, Rob Herndon (RV-6) had flown in from the Boise area to say hello so that made 8 RVs on the field! We broke down our camps then had breakfast in the lodge. Our college-aged server Cory (he’d served all our previous meals) remembered names for everyone in the group when passing out checks though Laird was never ‘Laird’ :-) Cory was the local ‘expert’ fisherman, and when he invited Jim to join him for some fishing nearby, Jim jumped at the chance! As he was out the door, he told his wife Joanie to pay the bill! I met up with Rob and Nancy and chatted a moment. I asked that they ‘check-in’ should they be flying in the SoCAL area and gave him my ‘flying card’ with address/phone. He then gave me his and it read "Robert C. Roberts, R&M Steel". He’s the ‘R’ in ‘R&M’ Steel. Well, what do you know? I keep my plane in an R&M Steel hangar as do several other folks on the Rosamond Skypark. I saw them at OSH last year and have been planning on an 80’x45’ R&M Steel hangar! He told me this year’s special at OSH is FREE Schweiss Lift-Straps and automatic door-latching system with the purchase of your new R&M steel hangar ;-) After the group pictures, Jim went fishing (again!), Joanie read and Gary/Carolyn, Chuck/Pam, and Laird flew west towards Seattle as they were just starting their vacations.

Todd/Sue and Victoria/I flew south to Jackpot (06U), NV for fuel where we met up with Klaus Savier and girlfriend Jenny who were there for the RACE races. It’d been less than an hour’s flight to Jackpot, not quite lunchtime, so we decided it was time for dessert at Cactus Pete’s Casino (5 minute walk). Todd graciously picked up the tab so I got out of the casino without spending $$$.

Departure from Jackpot has us flying southwest to Tonopah airport where we stopped to check Todd’s fuel status (visually) as his gauges didn't 'jive'. This was my first time to this airport though I've spent many a night at the other 'Tonopah' airport ;-) We then continued south back through the Trona Gap to Rosamond with lots of desert along the way! Flight time from Smiley to Rosamond was about 5 hours though Todd & Sue still had another half-hour home to Chino. Total trip time was just shy of 13 hours with clear weather all weekend, WOW! Hopefully the good weather will last for the Arlington EAA fly-in! It was fun meeting new friends Jim and Joanie, and we are already planning for next year’s trip back to Smiley and possibly Silverwood amusement park and a day at Glacier Nat'l Park!

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

Back to travel stories at or to Paul & Victoria's travel stories

Homepage URL:

Webmaster: Paul Rosales