"The Frank" - A Rich History of Place

Tom Lang

Frank Church Wilderness Monitoring Coordinator

The Frank Church – River of No Return is a remarkably complex landscape. The nearly 2.4-million-acre wilderness is the largest in the lower 48, spanning across five National Forests. The folding canyons of the Salmon River Watershed make the area difficult to access, and extreme shifts in seasonal climate can produce unforgiving conditions. It is an intense environment, accentuated by slopes of decomposing granite which fall from the Idaho Batholith.

Nevertheless, this stretch of the Northern Rockies has attracted human habitation for thousands of years, which has established a rich history of place within the wildness of Central Idaho. 

This past spring, when I began working on a research project to help unify monitoring efforts throughout the wilderness, I struggled to understand the character and scale of the Frank. Eventually, I realized that it is a cultural landscape, and the label of designated wilderness only tells the most recent chapter in its story. I also discovered that the task of systematically observing 2.4-million-acres of roadless country is exceptionally difficult. For managers, the obligation of preserving wilderness character is one that coincides with the duty of acknowledging the historical components of the landscape. As a result, the Frank has a number of legally recognized traditional uses which make it a unique piece of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Based on these complexities, it was clear that the goal of monitoring recreational impacts across the landscape required a collaborative approach.

The first step in this approach was to connect with the five wilderness districts so that an understanding of the projects goals could be formulated. The opportunity to meet with managers and talk through their existing data allowed for the objectives of this project to present themselves. Additionally, the design process needed to consider the mandate of the Wilderness Act, which requires wilderness areas to be “affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of [humankind’s] work substantially unnoticeable,” and for such lands to offer “opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.” Therefore, we needed a data collection system that effectively translates the social and biophysical conditions throughout the wilderness, and will eventually provide insight regarding long-term patterns of recreational impacts.  

Following the formation of a collective vision, it was necessary to join wilderness rangers in the field in order to understanding the existing challenges concerning data collection across the Frank. The local knowledge shared by wilderness rangers helped expand the scope of the project, and the perspective I gained allowed me to develop data collection tool that meet both the logistical and physical challenges of the landscape. Ultimately, what was produced is a data collection system that works to objectively monitor the impacts of recreational use on the social and biophysical conditions throughout the wilderness – which helps inform management decisions, and enhances our ability to be conscious stewards of the landscape.

The Best of the Best- The Southwest Selway Bitterroot

Joey Hudek

Moose Creek Trails Liaison

As my 7th trail season has come to a close, I find myself reflecting on what was the best season thus far. I was in an interesting position this year as the leader of a Forest Service trail crew, while not working for the agency myself. Luckily, my two crew members and I didn’t have a problem with that. They were both Montana Conservation Corps alums, like me, and one of them had been on a previous MCC crew of mine. The three of us traveled all over the Central Zone of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. We did trail projects on front county OHV trails, cleared remote wilderness trails, performed serious maintenance on a suspension bridge crossing the Selway River, and discovered some trail blowouts that kept trails closed all season long. We even had the opportunity to get to fly into the Moose Creek Ranger Station! 

Usually, with such a diverse season of trail work, it is difficult to pluck out a favorite project, place, or moment. Obviously, my favorite would be one of the big construction projects. Bridge maintenance on a suspension bridge or flying into the Wilderness. Nothing could be better than that, right? Well, it turns out something could be.

The Southwest part of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. It must have been a cool technical project then, right? Actually, it was just some good ol’ cut and run. Why was it my favorite then? Honestly, I don’t know exactly why, but I do know that this area captured me like no place has before. The trails we cleared were high on ridges and weaved in and out of fresh burns. There were 360° views of craggy mountains and it felt like I could see forever. I could pick out the Bitterroots to the east, the crags to the north, and I’m not sure what was going on to the South in the Frank Church, but I liked it. The beauty was almost too overwhelming at times. I know that doesn’t seem possible, but I assure you it is. I wish I was able to put into words how I felt while hiking those trails, but alas I am no poet. I can only make the recommendation to visit the Southwest Selway Bitterroot Wilderness and experience its overwhelming beauty first hand. Your soul will thank you, I promise. 

Called the "Singing Nuns" - there seems to be no mountain high enough for this group!

Each summer SBFC recruits volunteers to work a two-week shift at St. Mary’s Peak Lookout above Stevensville, MT. Volunteers perform the usual lookout functions; maintenance work, wildfire spotting/reporting, etc. Because this lookout is a popular destination, many of these volunteers also greet visitors, and are prepared to talk about the history of the lookout, the area, the geography, etc.

This summer came with a delightfully unique surprise. While volunteer lookout host Sheryl O. was at her post, she spotted seven nuns (which she affectionately refers to as “The Blues Sisters”) fully decked in royal blue habits poised to summit the mountain. Mind you, this is not a walk in the park, this is a trail to a lookout. In fact, alltrails.com sites St. Mary’s as “a 5.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail…….with an elevation gain of 2,483 ft. The trail is rated as difficult”. Let’s not forget that these women are not wearing the latest in Patagonia hiking apparel either.

Sheryl and the nuns introduced themselves, chatted, and then came the grand finale - a chorus of nuns atop this 9,000 foot peak, creating glorious music. Remind you of anything? This was only seven of the group of 27 women who actually call themselves “The Singing Nuns”. They are from St. Michael’s convent in Spokane, WA and have their own website www.singingnuns.com.

According to Sister Mary Angela, the group performs for different events throughout the year; Fourth of July, Christmas concerts, retirement homes, etc., but for Sister Mary, “their favorite time to sing is for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because we know that it is all for God's glory”.

We all are hopeful The Singing Nuns make the trek again next year.

singing nuns.JPG

A season of "Getting Franked"

Josh Page

Frank Church Lead Wilderness Steward

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is big. Like 2,366,757 acres big. Like the largest contiguous wilderness outside of Alaska big. Like big enough that spending a lifetime getting to know it wouldn’t even scratch the surface. In this wilderness I have had 50 or so days to discover what I can about this vast and varied landscape, and what few questions I have answered have led to only further questions. I have been as low as 3,000 feet elevation on the Main Salmon and at peaks above 10,000. I have seen a wolverine running towards a snowy peak one hitch and a rattlesnake giving its famous warning sound to me the next. I have flown, driven and (mostly) hiked into this wilderness. I have come across hunters, outfitters, through-hikers, rafters, forest service employees, volunteers and pilots. I have seen pictographs, old homestead remnants, preserved log cabins and lookout towers. Aside from the rattlesnakes and the wolverine, I have seen deer, bighorn sheep, elk, osprey, and a wolf. I have worked alongside people from Boise, Missoula, North Carolina, and Iowa among other places. What I have done is so much. And yet, next to the vastness of this place it is next to nothing.

How do I sum up a season in the Frank that is not even completed yet? Do I talk about that first hitch, working with two Wilderness Ranger Interns in the pouring rain and realizing their perseverance and tenacity was only matched by their ability to make this work so much fun? Do I talk about the knot in my stomach when I led a multi-day volunteer group for the first time along the Upper Middle Fork, a 26 year old new to this country, leading people with as much as three times more life experience than myself? What about the first time I solo backpacked for work, flying into Thomas Creek Airstrip before immersing myself into the canyons of Marble Creek, all alone and coming face to face with a full grown wolf? Perhaps the second volunteer trip where we worked up Marble Creek for a week straight only to finish and see a couple of through-hikers at the confluence preparing to hike the trail we had just put so much sweat into would be a good way to describe the season. Or Phase Two of that project being cancelled due to the approaching Kiwah Fire. There is also the burn area I worked in alongside Wilderness Ranger Khaleel Taylor, an entire drainage burnt to a crisp where we slept under house-sized boulders to protect us from the possibility of trees falling in the night, moving well over a thousand trees from the trail and getting covered in soot for eight days straight. And the following hitch where I worked alongside Wilderness Ranger John Zap, cleaning camp sites in the Bighorn Crags, backpacking over several passes, past beautiful turquoise lakes, dropping several thousand feet to an abandoned lookout tower and then several thousand more to Panther Creek. It’s crazy, in seven hitches all that I have seen and done. But this is just a quick synopsis of the season. It doesn’t capture all of the emotions that occur. The elation at a tree rolling away after a perfect cut plan, the sense of wonder at a blanket of endless stars at night, the loneliness of a solo scouting trip in a narrow and ominous canyon, and the visceral fear at hearing a snake rattle it’s tail were all felt and yet so much more I have left unsaid.

The reality is the work that I have accomplished this season can be undone with alarming speed and efficiency. With one avalanche, one flood, one rockslide or one fire, trails that can take hundreds of hours to maintain can be erased from the landscape. Even in the most cooperative of scenarios, hundreds of miles of trails need crosscut saws, pulaskis, loppers, silky’s, axes, picks, shovels, sledges and rock bars annually to continue as arteries into this immense terrain. It is a minuscule and vain task helping to open and upkeep these trails. If I am lucky, I will be tasked with doing so for years to come. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is seemingly endless, and I have only just begun to discover its secrets. It’s size and challenges demand my respect, and its character and stories have earned my undying love. 

Keeping Tradition Alive

Conner Adams - Trail Crew Leader - Nez Perce Clearwater

Four years ago, I didn’t know what a crosscut saw was. I had a vague concept of it as a tool that you would see on a Swiss cuckoo clock, rocking back and forth between two outlandish wooden lumberjack figurines every time the hour struck. I thought of an axe first and foremost as the burly weapon wielded by Gimli the Dwarf in The Lord of the Rings films. Pulaski was a rusty old town in Northern New York State, rock bar was where you beached your raft, and pick was what you did to your nose when no one was looking.

In fact, despite growing up around the Adirondack State Park in New York, I was completely unfamiliar with the concept of designated Wilderness until I was 25. My first encounter with Wilderness was in the Southeast. I entered the Raven Rocks Wilderness in northern Georgia, took a minute to read the sign, idly wondered why I couldn’t go hang-gliding in this area of the woods if I had wanted to, and then hiked on without a second thought. It wasn’t until I reached the Northern Rockies that I was finally confronted with the reality of Wilderness. Now, four years later, it is in my blood, and those tools that existed before only in museums have become as much a part of me as my arms or legs.

Despite having worked with chainsaws since my teenage years, I have developed a special fondness for the crosscut. Bucking and felling trees with a two-person crosscut saw is a manifestly different experience than ripping through wood with a Stihl. A chainsaw is a marvel of technology, a beastly machine thrashing through blowdown at full volume, heavy metal arpeggios rising and falling, the engine’s deep bass roaring, and trees cowering before the power of its gigantic amplified riffs.

Sawing with a crosscut is, to me, a different kind of music, a symphony for the ears. Wood creaks, the saw sings, my partner and I breathe in time to the song, my heart beats to a rising crescendo and the cymbals crash as the trees sways and topples to the ground. Sometimes I can hear the clap clap clap ahead in the distance as another crew member chops through a log, the rhythmic snaps echoing off the mountain walls. The sounds of Wilderness trail work are often the only accompaniment to my day. I have been sawing with my crew for long enough that we often don’t even have to speak to each other. My partner will tilt the saw up without being asked, just as I’m about to hit the dirt. He or she will bring the saw to a gentle stop just as it occurs to me that it’s time to pound in a wedge. Sometimes as we approach a new log, I will be handed the saw in the exact spot, at the exact angle I would have cut it. This unspoken bond between the crew and its tools is one of the most profoundly satisfying things about trail work.

When I’m out with a chainsaw, I often feel like I’m cheating, like I’m using technology as a crutch. I can tear through miles and miles of trail with minimal effort. I walk out of the mountains feeling as if I didn’t earn those views, that dip in the ice-cold swimming hole, that pot of spaghetti at the end of the day. With a crosscut and an axe, it’s an even trade. I’m not taming or mastering the wilderness with a combustion engine attached to some spinning teeth. Rather, I’m partnering with it, making a bargain: natural beauty and satisfying work in exchange for blood and sweat and effort.

I gladly accept all the benefits and conveniences granted to us by modern technology, but as the march of progress moves relentlessly forward, I am glad to hold on to a tradition that seems to me to embody everything great about the United States and the American conservation movement. I’m flattered and honored to be an instrument in the preservation and passing down of these traditions. Every time I cross the Wilderness Boundary with a saw in my hand and an axe on my back, I’m beginning a week of, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “working hard at work worth doing.”

Who owns this land? WE DO!

Will Merritt- Powell Trails Liaison 

Lost Horse/Twin Lakes with Catrock 

Aug 21-29

Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest 

The times they are a-changing here in the Selway-Bitterroot. For me at least, this is a very transitional time of the season. The weather here seems to have taken pity on our smoke-filled lungs and has turned a bearing towards fall. Cool nights and crisp clean air have replaced the hazy heat of summer, and the dragon fly stove is heating tea water both morning and night now. It is my favorite time of the year. This is the time of the year when one chapter closes, and another begins. The Wilderness Ranger Interns that I had that pleasure of working with this summer have hung up the boots for the season and returned to school. It is somewhat of an abrupt change. One that comes with a lot of pride but also some sadness, knowing that my trail family has moved on, and I must continue without them. And while I am excited and looking forward to joining a US Forest Service crew for the remainder of the year, I feel the need to reflect and digest the intern season. 

 

Luckily, I had the pleasure of co-leading a volunteer hitch this past week, which turned out to be the perfect medication to aid the reflection digestion of the intern season. A program based in Bronx, New York called Catrock (a part Sierra Club and Inspiring Connections Outdoors- New York) brought 6 urban youth (ages ranging 16-18) out to the wild, wild west of Montana/Idaho to experience Wilderness for the first time. Led by two fantastic individuals, and with the help of my co-workers, Natalie and Courtney, we were able to open a whole new world to these young adults. Coming from the concrete jungle, where sunset skylines are an impressive testament to the ingenuity and innovation of the human race, out to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, where the only light that may impede your star gazing is that of the full moon, served to be life changing experience for them. Upon arrival, there was minimal knowledge about public lands in general, only a shy curiosity for this new landscape. By the end of the trip, each one could not only explain what capital W Wilderness means, but why it is worth defending. They even could recite the 5 qualities of Wilderness character that Wilderness managers are tasked with conserving.  Although important and extremely helpful, these volunteer trips are never about the work accomplished. The most important thing is having a positive, meaningful experience in the undeveloped. An experience of solitude, one detached from the technology of society, which allows for a genuine connection with natural.  

 

Edward Abbey is quoted as saying " The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders." Creating stewards of the land, who can draw from their own "boots on the ground" experience is exactly how we create new defenders. So on the last day of the trip, when I posed the question "Who owns this land?" I received a battle cry style response of "WE DO", from every single one of them. I knew we had 6 more young defenders. And as I watched this transition happen in a matter of 9 days with these youth from the Bronx, I was left reflecting on the same transition through the first 3 months of the season with the SBFC Wilderness Ranger Interns. The interns, although they came in with an already strong base of knowledge and passion for conservation, went through the same transition. And left the Idaho/Montana backcountry with countless memories and experiences that will help fuel their fight in defense of Wilderness. 

TRAIL 442 WHERE ARE YOU?

Nez Perce-Clearwater Trail Crew Member-Trevor Fero

From wonderful lakes, new camping locations and emotional trails, Hitch 4 was full of new experiences, hard work and lots of beauty. Day one we hiked in and camped along Cedar Creek on Trail 939. The next day we hiked to the junction where Trail 939 and 618 meet. Clearing our way down 618, we passed Maple Lake and the junction with 442. As the afternoon got longer we decided to cache our tools and hike down to our new base camp at Isaac lake. Even though Isaac lake was swampy and buggy it was still a beautiful place to camp. While staying there we also got to enjoy the company of a family of 3 moose. Staying at Isaac for 3 nights allowed us to completely clear Trail 618 to the junction with 619.

Once Trail 618 was cleared our next priority was to clear Trail 442. We left Isaac lake and the moose to camp along Trail 442 on a beautiful ledge looking over the East Moose Creek drainage. This trail was known to us as the “emotional roller-coaster trail” because of how dramatic the landscape and blowdown was. The trail began descending down a beautiful ridge line in the high alpine with minimal clearing to be done. At this point our spirits were high and we were sure we were going to clear this trail. But we were very wrong…. The farther down the trail the worse the blowdown became. Recent fire had destroyed the trail, which left us with longer hours towards the end of the hitch.

During those last couple of days on hitch we completely lost Trail 442 twice. On our last work day when we lost the trail for the second time early in the afternoon, it became clear to us that we would not be completely opening Trail 442. Feeling defeated and exhausted on our last evening, we tried to enjoy our last night on Trail 442. We then made our way into our sleeping bags earlier than usual, in preparation for our 17 mile hike out the next day.

Ben & Zach Journey to the Center of "The Hole"

Ben Sargis

Boise State University

Waterfall Trail and South Fork of Waterfall Creek Trail

Salmon Challis NF

6/25-8/1

Nearing the end of the South Fork of Waterfall Creek, Zach and I are hiking well past our ten-hour work day. We are deep in “the hole”. Looking at our maps, the scenic Big Horn Crags are a day’s hike away, but we have been brushing and clearing lodgepole downfall stacked like toothpicks roughly three thousand feet lower in the afternoon sun. We call it a day on a lumpy hillside aspen grove a mile short of our goal, figuring we crawled, jumped, and shoved our way past enough fallen logs to make a whole work day tomorrow. So, we whip out our tiny mugs and cook our tiny dinners on our tiny stoves for the fifth night in a row. Over rice and beans, mac and cheese, and pepperoni of questionable freshness we watch a caterpillar munch on juicy young aspen leaves while the sun sets over the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the distance. We know we’ll be sweating and cursing the lodgepole chain mail in the morning, but tomorrow is Sunday in “the Church”—all we can do is be obedient servants of this vast Wilderness.

On the first day of our hitch as we leave Geoff, the Wilderness Ranger for the North Fork District, to drop into the Waterfall Trail he sends us off with a popular phrase in the Frank Church Wilderness: “Get Franked”. Get Franked means to get worked in the hot sun doing heavy brushing for miles. Get Franked means your tent zipper breaking and huddling under your dirty work shirt fending off mosquitoes. Get Franked means getting holes stabbed in your pants as you wrestle your way through Jenga piles of deadfall. But get Franked also means sunsets over the Middle Fork. It means camping on high divides, lakes, and mountains stretching into the distance in either direction. It means eating rice and beans watching a caterpillar eat leaves like it’s the Dr. Phil show. I might be deep in “the hole” preparing to get Franked for the sixth day in a row as I lay down in the aspens, but getting Franked has never sounded so righteous.

Feeling the Heart of Wilderness

Jess Raty – Wilderness Ranger Intern

University of Montana- Missoula

Wind Lakes/Graves Peak with IDAWA

July 25-28

Clearwater National Forest

“Wow, life is so good,” I say as I soak in some hot springs under the sweltering summer sun. I probably should not admit to the rest of my crew, all of whom went on a different, more difficult hitch, that I got to spend my first day with a group of high schoolers from Iowa, a project lovingly referred to as IDAWA,  at Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. We spent the morning hiking around DeVoto Cedar Grove, admiring the large cedars and comparing the flora of this area to the farmlands found in Iowa. We discussed the importance of ecological diversity, and even took the time to talk about how logging old growth forests can greatly affect the landscape. Then we took the afternoon to hike up to the local hot springs to experience what wonders the natural world provides. Nevermind the fact that not a single tree was cut on that first day, the time we spent learning about the Wilderness around us made for an excellent beginning of a fantastic hitch.

Now, I do not want this post to sound like I am about to shoot rainbows out of my eyes with fake positivity, but the amount of development and change in passion that I witnessed from these high schoolers over the course of this hitch was very real.  There are no words that I can use to describe this experience without sounding insincere. It is going to sound so cheesy, but part of what made this hitch with the IDAWA group so great was how welcoming the tight-knit group was to me, an outsider who did not join them for the 22 hour drive out to Idaho. As soon as I squeezed into the back of the van with them, they immediately made me a member of their group by including me in their jokes, discussions and activities. The guides of the group, Chris and Bob, were phenomenal leaders and even better people, encouraging each of us to forgo the clock and eat when we were hungry, rest when we were tired and stop living our lives around an abstract concept like time. It was liberating, I could see each student growing from the freedom that Wilderness granted them.

I would like to think that I taught them all about “capital W” Wilderness during their time in the backcountry, but honestly, I think the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness itself gave them so much more of a life-changing experience than I ever could have. These students were the ones who taught me so much more about conservation than I could have ever imagined. Sure, I provided them with the basic facts about the 1964 Wilderness Act and taught them how to safely use a crosscut, but they were the ones who gave me a whole new perspective on conservation. I spent my entire life growing up in the mountains and designated Wilderness areas, but I never quite took the time to stop and consider what the “Bread Basket” states of the Midwest might be missing from their landscapes. Watching these Iowans gawk over the crystal-clear waters of Wind Lake made me chuckle at first, until they told me that the only river in their area was the second most polluted river in the United States and “sticking a finger in the water would mean that you would immediately lose it in the depths of its murkiness”. They also expressed their concern over the diminishing native prairie land left in their state and how the less than 1% of their native prairie is along the railroad tracks, not in parks or protected areas. This shocked me and not only opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have grown up in such a pristine place, but also to how much harder we must fight to save and conserve the last of the wild places in our country.

One of the highlights from this hitch was the final campfire discussions we had as a group. Chris had the four “old women of the woods” (Anna, a Wilderness Ranger in the Selway- Bitterroot; Connie, an ex- Wilderness Ranger; Hannah, a USFS employee in recreation and me) talk to everyone about what made us dedicate our studies, careers and lives to Wilderness and conservation. It was emotional as well as empowering to have four women be the examples and leaders for these high schoolers. The most touching moment for me was when a girl came up to Hannah and me after the talk and said that we had inspired her and made her reconsider what she wanted to focus on in college. Hannah and I both agreed that that meant the world to us; it was the perfect way to end an already empowering night.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to join these wonderful people for a hitch in the beautiful Selway- Bitterroot Wilderness. Everyone’s enthusiasm to cut trees, clear drains and work hard was contagious, and I saw a lot of progress gained throughout their time in the Wilderness. What I learned from them was so incredibly valuable, and I cannot wait to see what each of these intelligent people do with their lives and careers in the future.

Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

Kate O’Connor, Program Support

Heidelberger Crew – South Fork of Big Creek Trail

July 25-30

Bitterroot National Forest

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods”, said Justine one morning while sipping her tea, reading one of the many inspiring quotes attached to her teabags. The quote struck me, I had to read it for myself. How serendipitous for this hitch and the work we were completing.  An aggregate of everything I felt leading up to this moment, summed up on a little tea bag.

This being one of the few volunteer hitches I’ve lead while working with SBFC, I was unsure how things go.  There’s always those pesky unknown variables, similar to the unpredictable pathless woods. However, the group of nine volunteers exceeded my expectations. Each brought a spunky attitude, which proved to be a fun and giggly dynamic. There was a range of ages and trail knowledge.  Some were seasoned backcountry veterans, while others were newbies, the combination created a concoction of eager teachers and learners.

Our work consisted of attempting to open the trail up to the South Fork Lake. I say attempting because this trail was left untouched by the Forest Service for sixteen years! Yes, you read that right, sixteen! Each day we hiked along the beautiful trail, surrounded by beautifully carved canyons to our work site where we set to clear huge old growth trees from the trail. Our work was rewarding, who doesn’t feel like a boss when successfully removing huge trees from the trail.  Then we hit the unknown – game over.  Sixteen years of no maintenance does quite a number on a trail when Mother Nature is left in charge.  Needless- to-say, we lost the trail.

It was in this wondering and exploring, in this pathless wood, that we grew closer.  We learned to effectively communicate and work together to find our way. To some degree we all became Lewis and Clark, on a clear mission, driven to navigate and clear a path. We were able to combine our brains and formulate somewhat of a plan, allowing us to successfully clear two miles of the three-mile trail, while creating a route to connect the trail to the lake. The commitment and perseverance by our group of nine hardworking volunteers, along with the guidance of Talitha and Justine, allowed us to put a dent in the rough trail and successfully complete our work. It is safe to say we can all call ourselves explorers.

It is in situations like this, surrounded by the wild backcountry, that one develops a strength and certainty of self. For myself, and hopefully for Talitha, Justine and the other volunteers, we all learned something new about ourselves and each other; something that can only be learned when immersed in Willderness.

Lord Byron said it best, over 200 years ago:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.”