I began climbing and back-country skiing in Idaho when three-pin bindings, leather knickers, gaiters, and wool socks were the norm – the days before the newer technologies changed the world of mountaineering: Gor-Tex, short skis with tips on both ends, and electronic devices; cell phones to call for help, and transmitters for rescuing people from the disaster of an avalanche. The old timers, myself included, call them “the good old days”.
From Robinson Bar Ranch, located on the Salmon River below Stanley, we launched the first guided back-country hut-to-hut skiing business in the United States, the first kayaking school and guide service in the United States, and created the White Water Rodeo on the Salmon River, which is now being considered as an Olympic event.
My climbing days began when I was in my early twenties. At the time I was living in Reno, Nevada, and climbing in the Sierras, Yosemite, and Lovers Leap in California. I had an incredible and supernatural experience in the winter of 1965 on Mt. Shasta. That story, as well as other climbing, kayaking, and skiing stories from my years spent as a mountain and river guide, are all written in my memoir, The Son of the Madam of Mustang Ranch, published in 2016.
I was born and raised in the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains in a cabin that was built by my grandparents. The cabin set on the banks of Deer Creek, a small creek that flows into the Middle Fork of the Boise River, and it was there that I developed a love for the natural world. It was a quiet place where time stood still, a fine place to be born into. I have always considered my earthly home to be Stanley and the magnificent Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains. They have been, and always will be, my touchstone.
Today, in the vale of time, I have retired to Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean. It seldom snows here and there are no rivers or mountains to tempt me. I listen to the waves of the sea and remember my past. It has become a time of thought and reflection, a time to relive my most incredible life experiences once again.
[Editor’s Note: Joe’s memoir The Son of the Madam of Mustang Ranch is a riveting read and highly recommended. In addition to his memoir, Joe has two other books published: A Mountain to Climb and Echoes from an Ancient Past. You can find out more about these books on Joe’s website. Joe has provided several excerpts from his memoir to this website. Read about Joe’s first winter ascent of Mount Regan at this link: The Lost and Wandering; Read about Joe’s exploits with guiding in Idaho at this link: Robinson Bar Ranch; Read another excerpt covering his adventures on Mount Shasta at this link: The Breath of God. Joe moved back to Idaho in 2018.]