Time in the Wilderness

Michael Riviere – Wilderness Ranger Intern

University of Montana

Bitterroot National Forest

Throughout this summer of working on trails in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness I have been paying a fair amount of attention to the time it has taken for me and the Wilderness to become acquainted. I say acquainted because these woods, rocks, and mountain ranges are constantly changing through immense amounts of natural forces.  Rain, droughts, fires, snow and ice cause trails to become rutted from water runoff, blocked by fallen trees, or worse, blocked by boulders tumbling from above.

I often remind myself to stop and look around, take in the sights (after all, I may see something I wouldn’t expect).  Time in the Wilderness is dictated by how much you are carrying. You can get work done quickly and have a short day or work slowly and have a longer day.  The enjoyment received from the job comes from clearing trails there is no doubt, but I find the purpose of working in Wilderness is because of the Wilderness. The grandeur of the landscape, knowing through time it will inevitably change, drastic or not. I do not feel as though our work is futile knowing the next year there will be just as many trees to cut, rocks to move, or even fire rings to naturalize. Futility is only a concept if you feel there is no purpose in the work you are doing. Although the trails being maintained require persistence, working alongside other like-minded people such as Connor, Verena, and Adam, reminds me constantly I’m not alone in my efforts of keeping and maintaining Wilderness character.  Even after the satisfaction wears off of bucking a large tree, the long-lasting gratification I get is knowing others are persistent in preserving natural resources for generations to come.