Camping on the Big Lost

Last weekend we stole away for our yearly two-night camping trip to our favorite spot – Garden Creek campground – off Trail Creek Road – a few miles beyond Mackay, Idaho. We camped at the same campsite last year and I blogged about it (the last entry under my ‘camping’ category). I’m using that same ‘you are here’ Google map visual to show you where we camped – at the pink dot:


because it’s so reassuring to know exactly where you are on planet Earth. Trail Creek Road eventually takes you over the mountains into Ketchum, Idaho.

We headed out of Idaho Falls about 5 PM on Friday, July 17, for the two-hour drive. Stopped for prime rib dinner at Ken’s club in Mackay (population 517 – plus or minus 2) on the way.

We’re approaching Mackay now, and the Lost River Range has come into view:

Lost River Range

Lost River Range

About an hour later, stomachs sated, we’re sailing down Trail Creek road – right at sunset …


Our campsite is available! In fact, the whole campground is available. Amazing. Of course, not the place to go if you’re looking for hook-ups. We pull in – us with our 1973 16′ bare-bones camper and Eric in his van, equipped with his new ‘deluxe’ cot tent (an upgrade from last year). Eric’s friend ‘Scott’ tagged along too, bedding down in the back of Eric’s van. Sheer luxury! I snapped a photo of our campsite in the light of day:

"Come on. You can't afford a better camper?"

“Come on. You can’t afford a better camper?”

On Saturday we struck out on a hike. Struck out, that is, finding the lake Eric was leading us to. We rumbled over about 20 miles of dirt road to get to the trailhead. Three young women with 45 pound packs pulled up at the same time, planning to camp on the same lake. After waiting out a hail storm we all charged up the trail. Except we couldn’t tell, even from Eric’s nifty but grossly outdated National Forest Service map, how to find the lake. No problem, we just circled around, exchanged yells with the women, met up with them again, as we all hiked in circles. All told, our efforts added up to about 6 miles of hiking, so we called the mission accomplished. The young women eventually bailed and drove out to find another place to camp.

I took a picture of David on the ridge:

“Maybe the lake is between those two distant peaks?”

David and I posed for a photo in a patch of lupine:


I remained prepared in case the sky opened up again…

Dinner back at the campsite, surprised by visitors. I had told my sister Lisa where we were camping and she and her husband Tom hopped in their truck and drove to our campground area on Saturday. They got some hiking and fishing in themselves and we all enjoyed dinner together. They drove back home Saturday evening.

Sunday was fishing day on the Big Lost River, just a few steps away from our campsite. The men fished. I cheered them on and took photos. Scott demonstrated how he literally threads the worm on his line and plants the hook at the end. (Yes, the worm is screaming the whole time, and thank goodness we can’t hear it.) So the worm hangs in the water looking very real and delicious to fish. Scott caught three fish right off the bat.


Eric and David had their lines in too.

Eric fishing

Eric fishing

Except their hooks kept snagging on the rocks. They spent a lot of time rebaiting their lines.

David fishing

David fishing

I cautiously stood back as fishhooks, heaved up out of the river in quick jerks to avert snags, came flying through the air, sometimes sailing 10 feet behind where we were standing. This is how Eric snarled a knarly land octopus.

Eric’s early catch of the day

David and I bailed on the fishing early and decided to hike around the campsite. I snapped a few photos:




We’re back at our luxury campsite now, ready to pack up.

"Guess the party's over"

“Guess the party’s over”

Eric and Scott reappear with their fishing poles – of course, David and I missed the moment Eric hauled in his big fish. No worry – Scott got a picture.

Eric's prize catch of the day

Eric’s prize catch of the day

Threw it back, of course.

We’re loaded up and ready to hit the road toward home.


Now driving back toward the highway on Trail Creek Road with the Lost River Range sprawled out in front of us. You can see Mount Borah, the highest peak in Idaho, in the far left distance. Mount Borah is one of the five peaks in Idaho that are over 10,000 feet.


Lost River Range

Lost River Range

The view itself is worth the trip.


No matter if you snag your line, get hailed on, miss your hiking destination or hike in circles.

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4 Responses to “Camping on the Big Lost”

  1. iowachick Says:

    Waiting for the time I spend with you and David.
    I am not “iowachick” but it automatically comes up.

  2. Jody Caraher Says:

    Yes, we are looking forward to your visit! Will leave the camper in storage while you are here – however, could give you a glimpse of its stunning retro lime-green interior….

  3. Scott Holmes Says:

    Well, this was my first time camping with the Caraher’s. I certainly didn’t know what I was missing! Great company, great conversations, fun activities – the “D” hike was a blast! Thanks for letting me tag along. -Scott-

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