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Darl Allred, of Allred's Adventures, has been operating as an outfitter in the Sawtooth Mountains for nearly 30 years. This interview was conducted in 2016 near Spangle Lakes, in the Sawtooth Wilderness, about 16 miles from Atlanta, Idaho.
Is Idaho a good state for Outfitters?
Idaho is a leader in the outfitting industry. Because of our licensing board and our designated areas, we have a strong outfitting community. It makes for good neighbors.
I moved here by choice. And I was outfitting in Utah, and all it was there is a forest service permit. And I might be camping here and the neighbor camping there, and the next guy right there. Here in Idaho we have strict boundaries that makes good neighbors. So if I need help, my neighbors over in Stanley, Mystic Saddle Ranch, we work together a lot.
What is the difference between an Outfitter and a Guide?
I’m an outfitter and I’m also a licensed guide. So the outfitter runs the business end of things. We’re responsible for having the insurance, we deal with the forest service permits, we buy the groceries… we book the clients.
A guide may be along on the trip, and his responsibility is to take care of the people and provide the service; most outfitters will play the role of both.
The trail from Atlanta to Spangle Lakes has not been easy for hikers or stock. But your horses did amazingly well.
If it was easy, everybody would be here; it would be crowded. But we haven’t seen anybody else along the way, and it doesn’t look like there’s hardly been any traffic up and down the trail.
My impressions were that there could be a little trail maintenance done. It doesn’t look like it’s been done in a couple of years coming through here. Quite a bit of downfall. Some pretty bad spots to get around. You have to go up the hill and get into some pretty bad stuff.
Most of the Sawtooths is pretty steep and narrow canyons. The trails are where they’re at for a reason, because that’s the easiest way to get around. But when they’re not maintained and there’s obstacles that go around, then it puts you up on the side hills, puts you, your horses, all your guests in danger.
But these horses get used just about every day through the summer, so they’re more experienced and stuff; and they gather their feet and don’t panic.
When trails aren’t maintained, people don’t use them. So if we don’t have access, there’s no way of getting in and enjoying what is ours.
What are your impressions of the Sawtooth wilderness?
This is spectacular; this is the crown jewel of Idaho right here, probably of the United States. But every year it’s less and less people coming in and being able to enjoy this.
What kind of dog do you have?
What is the importance of Outfitting to Idaho towns?
When we had a good elk population, the small town that I live in, Garden Valley, I was the number one guy that bought fuel. The grocery store I kept going, the restaurants I kept going, the motels and stuff, we filled them up. So we really put money back into the economy, especially in the small towns around the state.
With the introduction of wolves, our elk herd has went down, so we don’t take near the number of hunters. I used to take 60 elk hunters a year, run 85 percent success. I may take a dozen now, and my success rate is down around 50 percent.
You’ve talked about movies making a difference to your business.
We need another River Runs Through it or City Slickers. If we had one of those movies, next summer my business would be great. That’s how some people get introduced to this type of a lifestyle, is seeing a movie and saying, “hey, that would be great; let’s go do that.”
Does Outfitting have a viable future?
I think there’s still going to be outfitters and things. What I’m seeing right now, it’s not the small mom-and-pop operations. A lot of the areas are being consolidated, more of a corporate type; very few outfitting businesses are owned by the actual guides, the people providing the service anymore.
I’ve got a son; he’s part of this business, but he’s also working a full time job. And that’s what I see; it’s hard for people to come in and take over a business anymore. It’s the old guys around that are pretty much debt-free; we’re the only ones surviving at this point.
How has Outfitting changed?
My generation, we grew up camping and we were out and we learned the skills of how to make a fire and how to have a nice campsite and things. And the kids these days, they don’t get that opportunity to do that.
I haven’t taken a 10 day trip in probably 10 or 15 years. I haven’t taken a seven day trip in five years. Three and five days are the most common, and probably 90 percent of the trips now are three days. So people don’t have the time. With the internet and the cell phones, people don’t like to get away where we don’t have the cell service and things.
But a lot of people still think you’re pretty lucky!
It’s more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. Look at my office. So I get to come out, spend time in country like this, I get to work with stock every day. I mean literally thousands of people through a year.
Also, we do get to educate. we’ll take a lot of first time people that have never rode a horse, never camped, never been in the back country, and open those doors for them.
This will be the only trip that they’re ever in a situation like this.