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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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For the week of August 22 - 28, 2001

  Features

Resort has eclectic character, attractions

Smiley Creekís customers see 
themselves as family


By PETER BOLTZ
Express Staff Writer

Smiley Creek Lodge and Resort bends to the will of the seasons. There is something as natural about the business as the landscape that surrounds it with the White Cloud and Sawtooth mountains on the horizon.

In summer, from May 25 to Nov. 1, the resort caters to sports enthusiasts who enjoy the wide range of activities of the season.

Mountain man Black Kettle and Smiley Creek General Manager Randy Townsend have a chat Friday morning before business picks up.

Express photos by Peter Boltz

In winter, from Christmas until April Foolís Day, the resort narrows its services to match a reduction of activities to skiing and snowmobiling.

The resort is located on Highway 75 at the southern end of the Sawtooth Valley, about 35 miles north of Ketchum, on the north side of Galena Summit and just south of the Blaine-Custer county line.

Randy Townsend, general manager of Smiley Creek Lodge and Resort, said he sees the whole Sawtooth Valley as a great big resort and that Smiley Creek is just a part of it.

The area, he said, has "quite a draw."

"This is a resort all up and down the valley with all the businesses up and down the river working together."

For example, he said, if he doesnít have room for a lodger, heíll call Redfish Lodge and see if thereís room there. And Redfish Lodge, or some other business, often does the same for him.

"Itís a community effort up here, and we all work well together," he said.

Perhaps thatís why Smiley Creek has such an eclectic flavor about it, especially in the summer season.

Bikers visit in packs, lone cyclists rendezvous with their car support, pilots fly in from all over the country, mountain men spin yarns, alternative healers work out hurts with crystals, and longtime summer "residents" come back to "family."

Two of the oldest longtime summer residents are Minnie and Tom Busby, 77 and 80, from Delano, Calif.

The Busbys made this summer their 36th year in a row to come up with their trailer and camp in Smiley Creekís RV park. Smiley Creek Lodge is 48 years old.

The two have make Smiley Creek their home from about June 10 to Aug. 25.

"Itís kind of a family deal for most of us," Tom said about his neighbors, whether newcomers or old-timers.

Retired school principals, the two came for their first taste of this cool summer oasis because of a phone call.

Thereís no mistaking Smiley Creek Lodge. If there isnít a bear in sight, it isnít Smiley Creek.

Express photos by Peter Boltz

A good friend of theirs called them one day in 1965 while they were sweltering in 102-degree heat in Delano. He told them about the snowcapped Sawtooth Mountains, and the regionís cool air and great fishing.

"You kids get that little trailer of yours on the road," the friend said.

Two weeks later, about June 10, they made it, though the summer turned out to be cooler than they had expected. Tom said that on that July 4 he and Minnie had 14-inch-long icicles hanging from their trailer.

"That doesnít happen anymore," Minnie said.

A neighbor of the Busbys, a mountain man named Black Kettle, lives in a tent on the north lawn of the lodge. Black Kettle has been a summer resident of Smiley Creek for the last nine years.

Heís the one, Townsend said, who likes to tell stories to people who come to his campfire at night.

"Iíve never told a story in my life," Black Kettle objected. "Only true happenings."

Like the origin of his name.

He said he was at the council fire of a mountain man rendezvous "a little late" one night, and he barely made it back to his campsite.

"The next morning, someone caught me using the black kettle in front of my tent for a pillow," he said. And thus he was named.

Then there is the story about his friend Tiny who got him involved in the Helping Hands Freedom Trail Ride for the handicapped. Itís an event mountain men help put on every year at Petit Lake the last weekend of July.

"Tiny is the biggest man in the world. Heís 6 foot 7 inches, and they donít know how much he weighs because there arenít scales big enough to weigh him," Black Kettle said.

How much of Tinyís description is exaggeration is unclear, but Black Kettle was crystal clear about his intent to make more people aware of the Freedom Trail Ride.

"Contact Lloyd Ramsey at L and R Tarps in Heyburn, Idaho," he said.

Another neighbor in the Smiley Creek family is Gordon Hendrix, manager of the Smiley Creek Airport.

The airport is owned and operated by the Idaho Department of Transportationís Division of Aeronautics, and Hendrix manages it from the third week of May to the Saturday after Labor Day.

Though pilots can still land their aircraft after Labor Day, landing becomes dangerous once ice and snow cover the grass strip. Eventually, it becomes a snowmobile track.

Use of the airport and the resortís campground, bathrooms and hot showers are free for pilots. The airport served about 540 flights last season and is expected to serve even more this season, Hendrix said.

Sun Valley Aviation is yet another Smiley Creek neighbor, even though the business is based at Haileyís Friedman Memorial Airport.

For two summer seasons now, Jeff Brame, chief pilot for Sun Valley Aviation, has been taking couples and trios on scenic morning tours of the Boulder and Sawtooth mountains, then landing at Smiley Creek for breakfast at the lodge. The trip starts around 7:30 a.m. when the air is calm and smooth and ends about 10:30 a.m.

After Labor Day, business for Smiley Creek and all the Sawtooth Valley begins to slacken. The summer residents go home, the airport closes, sheep and cattle are driven to winter pastures and all the young people go back to school.

Between Nov. 1 and Christmas, the lodge closes and staff prepare for winter weather and winter sports.

And while the campground is closed, Townsend said a few people still live in campers, even though there is no sewer or water service. However, electricity is available, and the grounds are kept plowed.

For those who donít want to rough it, the lodge keeps its two cabins and three rooms on the second floor open during winter.

And winter visitors will find a common thread that runs through all of Smiley Creekís seasons--neighborliness.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.