"My grandparents started visiting the back country of central Idaho in 1957", explains Robin Irwin.
They were not the first to be lured by the prospect of outdoor adventure and the hint of gold; the area's potential as a mining hub was first developed in 1884 when workable veins of silver and gold were located nearby. Today, this remote area of central Idaho is home to only a handful of year-round residents.
Robin was a mere three years old when she first visited her grandparents' cabin and the neighboring Big Creek Lodge -- she returned every summer for the next fifteen years. Summer skies at Big Creek were framed by 9,000 foot peaks, days defined by long hours spent riding back country trails and getting to know every horse and pack mule for miles around.
It's a tough place to get to, Big Creek. The gravel road winding through Yellow Pine often does not open until late June or early July. The closest town of any size is four and a half hours away; Robin's home in Boise, six and a half hours. When the fire broke out October 22, 2008, help just couldn't get there fast enough to prevent the storied Lodge's complete destruction.
"I was at work when I heard about it", remembers Robin, "it was like being told that my own house had burned down. So many memories and so much history turned to ash that Wednesday."
It's a tough place to get to. Tougher still when your eyes are filled with tears. Robin visited a scant three days after the fire. It was devastating.
On one of our first visits together, Robin told me about her family's ties to Big Creek. Especially about the horses and mules she knew.
There was a bright red bay mule that she thought was particularly handsome. Now Robin has a red bay ceramic "Tuesday" re-titled "BC Fire", to commemorate a very special place, Big Creek Lodge, Idaho.
It was a pleasure to work on this piece, number 7 in the "Tuesday" series. Sculpted during those long frightening autumn days of 2001, "Tuesday" expresses a universal vibe of shock and loss.
A tough place to get to, but Big Creek is an easy place to love. Popular with campers, outfitters, hunters, back country pilots and white water rafters, Big Creek Lodge offered a heavenly bit of comfort in the middle of the two million acre Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. There is hope that the Lodge will be rebuilt. In the meantime cabin owners in the area, like Robin's family, still enjoy this secluded high country get-away.
When the snow melts, I hope to get up into that country too.