Huckleberries & High Spirits - Nez-Pearce/Clearwater NF

Hitch #3 - Blog Post by Mark Vandlik - SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern

Despite a shaky start, the 3rd Hitch went smoothly for the ranger interns working in the Nez-Pearce/Clearwater National Forest.  Inundated with heavy rain and crashing thunder on our hike in, the first night was a rather wet one.  Despite waterlogged boots, however, the crew's spirits remained high and the weather eventually shaped up.  Interns Danilo “Mickey” Figueroa, Dani Jones, Calle Ries, and Mark Vandlik hit the Warm Springs (Jerry Johnson) Trail #49 with Moose Creek Trails Liaison, Eric Schweitzer.

Our plan was to clear the trail in a loop from the junction of Warms Springs Trail #49 and Wind Lakes Trail #24, up to Wind Lakes, along Saturday Ridge (Tr. #89), and back down the Warm Springs Trail— a total trip of around eighteen miles.  The going was rather slow with a lot of downed trees and several stream crossings, but we eventually made our way up to Wind Lakes, battling bloodthirsty mosquitoes and nettlesome no-see-ums all the while.  The ladies on the crew decided to forgo the bites and instead donned black funeral veils, adding a somber tone to the days’ work.  That evening made up for all the trouble, as we watched the sunlight slowly recede along the rock face above Wind Lake’s seemingly out of character placid waters; casting our flies to rising cutthroat in the shadow of the old Grave’s Peak lookout, made famous by Missoula’s Norman Mclean who stood atop the point back in 1919. 

After climbing out of the lake and taking to the high country, the bugs subsided enough to allow us to gorge ourselves on the prevalent huckleberries in relative peace.  And so we ended our hitch fat and happy, just like the black bears we shared the trail with.  In the end, we weren’t able to finish the entire assigned task, but our work was admirable as it opened up that much more beautiful territory to be enjoyed by our fellow lovers of wilderness.