This is my "Idaho Hunting Trip" story, with references to two places I know Dad went hunting.

I had a small history of saying that some year I wanted to tag along (not to hunt) to see what it was like, having grown up with Dad hunting elk on my birthday every year. He always sent a birthday postcard enroute. All I knew is that they went to Montana, then mysteriously back into Idaho.

When I heard that his next trip would be is last, I asked to go along, to hike in with their pack train, and hike out by myself after two days. It was September 1976. Dad had just turned 60. I was 27.


The trailhead to the place I visited is about 50 miles "in" on a forest road. We drove thru Missoula, Hamilton, and Darby on pavement. Then westerly on forest road 473 to Magruder Crossing, some 40 miles. Then north 10 miles to Paradise Campground or the end of the road. We camped for the night.

In the morning while the hunters packed their gear and supplies onto horses (mules?) I got a head start on foot, and hiked up the White Cap River. Dad said to go UP just before a large rockslide. When I came to a rockslide, I wasn't sure it was large enough, or that the faint trail beside it was the one Dad said to go up. I went further along the river to look, only to double back to find that horses had gone up the trail! So I headed up.

When I got way up there, the tracks went off into the brush, or perhaps the trail was overgrown. There was an empty cigarette package on the brush that was not the same brand that I'd seen Uncle Jim smoke... so I stopped tracking those horses and spent the first night alone probably less than a hundred yards away, and the next night back down the ridge further up the river in Coopers Flat meadow with other hunters, who were converging on the area like crazy. Dad knew I was OK via that HunterNet. I met up with him and we had a good time together before I headed back to work at Timberline Lodge. We found out later that Jim had bought a different brand pack of cigs from a vending machine in Darby because it was out of his regular kind. You don't have to tell me that I lost an opportunity! Mom refers to it as my getting lost.

So, my ideal trip would be to return to Paradise and find the camp site I never saw, the place I (almost) went to. I could go back later in my own life, knees willing, with or without Dad's ashes. It could be a day hike, or an overnight backpack.

I know the camp was just over a saddle, beside a creek, the end of the Cedar Camp trail. The trail is steep with many switchbacks, not for the weak-kneed or uncommitted hiker. The rock slide is a relatively small rockslide, but it is a distinct landmark.

Hells Half Acre

Hells Half Acre is where the Elk was taken that is mounted in Trophy Room. I thought the picture on the wall in the trophy room (by the bear hide) was Hells Half Acre or Hells Half Acre Saddle, but it isn't labeled.

Going to Hells Half Acre. I think you would just go in to Magruder Ranger Station, and take the Pasture Ridge trail, up Hells Half Acre Creek. I wouldn't mind doing that one either someday!

Maps and other Info

Better Maps are available from the West Fork Ranger District Station in Darby, MT, 406-821-3269. The Bitterroot National Forest map is adequate and has both places on it. Highly detailed topgraphic maps are available.

Dad's hunting picture album is on shelf behind the recliner, first album on the right. Hunting-related letters are in the desk in his bedroom, but none pertain to Idaho.

This is described as pristine wilderness by the forest service, which means no new logging roads, only historic structures, etc.

Lewis & Clark went through this same area in August-Sept 1805 and June-July 1806. It is possible that Dad set foot on the very same ground crossed by that expedition.