Wilderness Blowout

Natalie Stockman

Nez Perce-Clearwater Trail Crew Member

Eagle Rock

June 26 – July 4

Nez Perce-Clearwater NF/Selway-Bitterroot

I began my first hitch with the rest of SBFC trail crew at the wilderness gateway campground in Kooskia, ID. We had met before hand to look at the map and plan our route but the hitch was still full of mystery. Especially after realizing that the maps are, in some cases, a rough idea of what the trail will look like. We set out to clear from the Huckleberry Butte trail head to the Seven Lakes then out Lone Knob. We climbed up the Huckleberry Butte for the first day with day packs and tools to see how much clearing we would need to do.

After hiking a few miles short of Huckleberry Butte we returned to camp, only to hike up again the next day. We promptly hit impassable snow once we came within a half-mile of the peak on the second day. It was clear we wouldn’t complete the loop as planned so we looked at the map and decided to camp at Stanley hot springs. Considering the state of our bodies after what would be three long days of hiking we were in unanimous agreement about camping near the hot springs.

For the remainder of the hitch we had a mix of beautiful cool sunny days and cold rainy days, but coming back to the hot springs every night was a special treat at the end of the day. Similar to a square of dark chocolate you forget about in the bottom of your food bag. One day in particular stood out as my excitement began to grow for the adventures to come. From the Hot Springs we cleared trail #222 to Rock Lake. The day was perfectly sunny and cool for working. Although the trail was impressively steep in some places, it periodically opened up to small meadows where the view looking into the vastness of the Selway consumed me.

Moments like those on our first hitch reminded me of an exercise we did during the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills institute just a few weeks earlier. We participated in a presentation by Sue McDonald, an experienced wilderness interpreter from the Arthur Carhart center. She laid out a series of images centered around outdoor recreation for the most part and asked us to silently choose one that represented wilderness in our lives. I chose a photo of a sunset over an expanse of mountains. For me, wilderness means feeling small. In those moments where we hike above tree line or the trail weaves through open meadows I am warmly reminded of places that make me feel small. Places where I can see and experience the grandeur of the landscapes we visit.

“We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” 
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

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