The Experience Idaho Loaner Backpack program is a fantastic addition to the park visitor's experience; it helps foster future resource stewards of Idaho, while simultaneously providing environmental education and entertainment for the whole family.
With the implementation of the program, it became apparent that parks would need a uniform way to house and advertise the backpacks in their various stores and visitor centers across the state. But what started as a relatively simple project to design wooden backpack stands has evolved into an impressive, custom-design display of artistry and craftsmanship.
Gavin Hughes has been involved in woodworking since he was a child, but started getting more serious into the art of wood carving about 10 years ago. Since then, he has been experimenting with different design techniques, such as staining to add color and burning for depth and shadow.
"I'm glad that I was given more time and creative freedom with this project," says Gavin. "And that Lanny [Neipert] and David [White] were on board with it."
The creativity really started coming through with Round Lake's stand, affectionately named "Bruce the Moose."
Bruce (pictured below) was crafted out of a massive Grand Fir log, with a separate attached log on top to form the antlers, which would also serve as the support for the backpacks.
After Bruce's big reveal, Gavin thought it would be a good idea to honor each park with their own custom look and design.
And so the project took off and Gavin spents hours searching for exceptional pieces of Blue Pine, Cedar, and Lodgepole Pine upon which he would saw, carve, and etch the stories of Idaho State Parks.
"It was no longer just about the stands. It was about adding to the experience, something that would draw people in," Gavin explains.
The long days, artistic prowess, craftsmanship, and dedication can be seen from any angle of the backpack stands, at any park. From the Harriman swans to the Bruneau Dunes scorpions, each stand tells a story, and from those stories, we can share the experience of Idaho, it's history, and the future of outdoor recreation.
Gavin's woodworking skills were in perfect cohesion with the idea behind the Experience Idaho Loaner Backpacks: to learn, to engage, and to understand the natural world through activities and interaction.
Gavin recently finished the stand for Coeur d'Alene's Old Mission State Park, which was comprised of ten 4x6 timbers glued together. The exceptional artwork on this stand speaks to the historic tales that brought the Mission to life.
This coming Spring, Gavin will be competing in his first professional woodcarving event: The Oregon Divisional Chainsaw Championship. As of right now, no one else from Idaho has signed up so Gavin will be representing the Gem State and we couldn't be more excited for him! Good luck Gavin!
When asked if he had any advice for those looking to get into the trade, he had this to say, "Just have fun with it. There's no such thing as bad art. Let it come from whatever you see as creative."
If you're interested in seeing more of Gavin's art, it is showcased on his Instagram page @ghcarving.