Lewis & Clark College
Big Sand Lake
July 20 - July 27
Nez Perce / Clearwater National Forest
Being in the Wilderness can be a challenging and eye-opening experience for some people, especially when your introduction to it is starting with an eight-mile hike to Big Sand Lake. This is where we found our Sierra Club volunteers on a Sunday morning after an already exhausting journey to the Hoodoo Lake campground the day before; starting with a six hour drive from the Missoula airport (that should have taken only two hours), to lost luggage, and a forgotten driver’s license, these volunteers began this hitch with another storm coming for them.
The volunteers found the hike in challenging, some saying it was the hardest thing they had ever done. On the bright side, they weren’t the only ones with a challenge that day. Before leaving the campground, we heard from a hiker that had just come from Blodgett Pass that the trail we were about to march on was completely clear. However, after crossing the Wilderness Boundary, we found about 50 trees down. As the volunteers clambered over fallen trees with full packs, four of us worked on clearing as much of the trail as we could. It was a glorious moment when we finally all made it to Big Sand Lake and the volunteers could seek refuge in their big bug tent.
Although the volunteers started the hitch with a couple of hiccups, morale remained high and they were excited to get their hands on the crosscuts. I was a bit nervous to teach a volunteer what I had been practicing all summer, but the volunteer that I paired up with picked up on the technique right away. We spent the day clearing trees with the other two crew members, plus interns; Emma and Henry, and the Sierra Club volunteers. Our group’s finest moment was making 5 cuts in a tree that was covering about 40 feet of trail. Everyone felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that they had achieved something larger than themselves.
We had a great time getting to know our volunteers and teaching them how to play Euchre. We bestowed as much knowledge of trails and the Selway on them that we could, while also learning a lot from them in return. Who knew the correct pronunciation for coffee is “caw-fee”. And it was the volunteers who had to keep reminding us to stop and smell the flowers!