Moose Creek Trail Crew Leader
Nez Perce - Clearwater National Forest
Being Grateful in the Wilderness
As my third season with the SBFC comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on my trail work career. I’ve been tromping around the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness since 2012 and it really has imbedded itself in my heart and soul. The nine day chunks of time I get to spend out there have become an important part of who I am today. It seems like every hitch the wilderness teaches me an important lesson. This last hitch the lesson was gratitude.
I left my crew to join the Forest Service in finishing the Bear Creek bridge. Instead of flying in with everyone else, I was able to use the packing skills I learned this year as I accompanied Pete the Packer to Shearer Guard Station by way of the Moose Creek Ranger Station. I was very grateful to get this opportunity to practice new skills, visit Moose Creek, and hang out with Pete. But I sure was sore after 40 miles in the saddle! We joined the bridge crew on day three and my focus shifted from horse packing to technical bridge construction. Our goal was to replace the top cap on the south end of the bridge. The other side had been done earlier in the summer by the same crew, so this one was set to be a piece of cake as everyone was already savvy on the process. Well, it didn’t go quite as everyone had planned. There were some setbacks and unexpected challenges that the entire crew had to overcome together. We all learned a lot. But, we did it, the Bear Creek Bridge is now officially open after a year and a half of being closed to stock!
So, the project was completed and we were waiting for our air transport out of Shearer. There was lots of time for contemplation (our plane came way later than we expected). I thought about all of my trail work mentors who helped me get to where I am today. Two of them happened to actually be out on the bridge project, and I was grateful to get to learn more from them. I thought about Penny Keck, the bridge builder. I’m grateful to be part of her bridge building legacy in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. I also thought about what an amazing life I have the privilege of living. In the summers, I spend more time in the woods than I do in town, which sometimes doesn’t feel like real life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m grateful to get to call the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness my home for five months every year, and even more grateful for all the lessons I have learned out there.