On High Alert!

Connor Adams - Selway Trail Crew Member

Selway River Trail #4.3

Bitterroot National Forest

Despite a canyon full of smoke, several active fires in the area, and dozens of rattlesnake encounters, the SBFC Trail Crew has another hitch worth of solid trail work on the books. The hitch was ended two days early due to changing fire weather, but the trail crew and Will Merritt – the Powell Liaison – were able to swing a few tools for the betterment of the Wilderness.

The work this hitch primarily focused on deferred maintenance on the Selway River Trail north of the Paradise Trailhead. In all, 3.5 miles of trail were maintained between Running Creek and Goat Creek, with over a half a mile of retread done in problem spots. A heavily used trail for hikers, stock users, and hunters alike, the tread was a few years overdue for some love. Trail #4 winds along the steep canyon walls for much of its length, and in spots failed retaining walls and gravel slough have caused dangerously skinny benches and blowouts on the downhill side of the trail. We repaired many of these blowouts, widened the bench along the steep sidehills, and dug the sloughed gravel off the trail. In addition, we cleaned out drains and water bars and performed some spot brushing.

The trail was practically crawling with wildlife during our time on it. The fire activity seemed to confuse the creatures of the dusk. The smoked-out sun encouraged the crickets and night birds to sound off in the middle of the day, and the rattlesnakes were sluggish, though still very prevalent. We saw a minimum of one per day on or beside the trail, and on our last day of work had no fewer than eight encounters. In addition, we spotted a few Western skinks and an adorable pygmy owl. Trail #4 north of Paradise, despite the heavy traffic and private inholdings, is a haven for critters.

The fires are still burning heavily on the Forest, though the smoke had generally cleared out by the last days. The first signs of fall (minus the rain, of course) began with the changing colors and falling needles, as well as much colder temperatures at night. The trail, however, is in much better shape. Once the fires die down, it will be ready for use!