Photo:  SBFC Wilderness Ranger Interns head to mule school.  Jake Candeub learns from the best – Flora Benninger and family show us how the pros pack in.

This week the SBFC staff headed to Lochsa Historic Ranger Station for basic training to “brush up” on our trail skills.  Each day, we broke into crews and tackled skills stations which included: cross cut saw and axmanship; trail maintenance; campsite and wilderness character monitoring; defensive horsemanship and stock packing; leave-no-trace ethics and trail construction.  Days were hot and sweaty, but evening swims in the Lochsa kept us cool and smelling (almost) fresh.  

The training covered a wide breadth of information, all of it useful for our summer ahead.  As members of the SBFC team (and newly certified A and B sawyers) our focus for the summer will be directed towards protecting the character of the wild places where we are visitors and not owners or managers.  In the field we will be expected to protect ourselves, our teammates, and our tools.  Perhaps the week’s biggest take away is the magnitude of the opportunity before us – a summer to be spent getting to know one of the largest, least-traveled, and most beautiful wilderness areas in the country.  SBFC board members made their way to Syringa to meet the 2016 crew. Over pulled pork and slaw, interns got to hear a little more about what makes the Selway so special and why such a dedicated group of individuals will afford us the opportunity to make a difference in the backwoods.   

SBFC staff and interns also had the opportunity to meet with some of the Selway’s most famous characters.  Retired packer, Jim Renshaw, and retired Wilderness Ranger, Penny Keck, shared stories about their time in the wilderness – times which, both agreed, were some of the best of their lives.  “Think of me while you are out there,” Jim told the group from his aluminum lawn chair. “It’s where I grew up, spent most of my life, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”  

Back in Missoula to resupply for our first hitches, we are reflecting on our new skills with a greater sense of what is to come.