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


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.