NICOLE in the Wild

Nicole was born in Colorado but at age 10 moved to a ranch at the foot of the white cloud Mountains, now the White Cloud Wilderness in rural Custer County. Nicole's mother, Patricia LeFavour worked as an outfitter and guide from the ranch and her father, Bruce LeFavour continued his career as a chef on the ranch, raising pigs, chickens cows, and planting organic gardens to feed guests on the ranch. Nicole spent many years working in kitchens for her father, making butter, picking wild watercress, and with her sister Cree milking cows and raising geese and rabbits for the restaurant. 

In May of 1986, after a stint working for the Bureau of Land management in Alaska, Nicole was hired as a fire lookout for the Middle Fork District of what was then the Challis National Forest. After three years on Pinyon Peak and Little Soldier mountains, she began working as a mix of hydrology technician, fire fighter and became the Challis National Forest's first Wilderness Ranger, walking the south half of the Frank Church mostly alone for four summer seasons until 1992.

Nicole's experiences alone in the wild fueled her work at the University of California where she studied cognitive science and worked editing the Berkeley Poetry Review. At the University of Oregon she later studied literature and plant physiology and, in 1990, finished her MFA in fiction writing at University of Montana. In 1992 she began work for the Snake River Alliance in Boise as an community organizer focused on stopping the Owyhee Bombing Range and educating Idahoans about radioactive waste and nuclear weapons issues. Out of her house on 11th Street, a short walk from the Boise Foothills in Boise's North End, she helped found, wrote for, and for two years published the monthly Boise Green Reader magazine.  From 1996 to 1998 Nicole worked for the Boise Weekly as a writer and staff reporter and received an Idaho Press Club Awards for her stories, "Flying at the Hands of Gravity" and "Where Have You Gone Joe Albertson?" 


In spite of her young age, Nicole LeFavour served for three years as the Challis national forest's head lookout for before becoming a wilderness ranger. Her previous experience working in Galena Alaska for the Bureau of Land Management gave her experience with radios, fire and communications. Nicole's essay "Listening to Voices in the Wilderness" is about solitude, the wild and her time on Little Soldier lookout. The essay is collected in Jackie Johnson Maughn's anthology Go Tell it on the Mountain.

Nicole was hired by the Middle Fork Ranger District of the then Challis National forest to be the forest's first Wilderness Ranger. She worked alone, backpacking for 8 days at a time across some of the most remote parts of the lower 48 states. Her experience in the wild is described in her essay "Sometimes it's Just the Light." The essay was commissioned by the Idaho Humanities Council and concludes their 2017 Idaho Book of the Year award winning anthology Idaho Wilderness Considered.

Landscape Photographer Mark Lisk commissioned Nicole to write an essay and 14 short prose poems for his book on the central Idaho wilderness that surrounded the ranch where her mom and dad operated a restaurant and lodge in the mid 1970s. The newly designated White Cloud wilderness sat out the back door of the old Ranch. The Sawtooth wilderness loomed over the elementary school where Nicole and Cree went to elementary school when they were not home school on the ranch. Named a 2017 Idaho Book of the Year honorable mention, Lisk and LeFavour's book Sawtooth - White Cloud is filled with Lisk's striking photographs and their powerful sense of darkness and light. Together the essays and photos bring depth to the silence, stillness and solitude of the high alpine lakes and peaks of Idaho's humbling wild.

Photo by Nicole LeFavour

Nicole LeFavour