Respect for the Volunteers

Riley Hunter – Wilderness Ranger Intern

Utah Valley University

Upper Yellowjacket Volunteer Project

June 14-20

Salmon-Challis National Forest

I was told, ever since my early teenage years, that my love for the outdoors was going to lead me to a job with the Forest Service doing trails and backpacking around as a Wilderness Ranger. To be honest, I never truly believed them and I still don’t know that this field is where I will end up. I don’t know what my passions are, or what I can truly dedicate my time to.

But my first hitch taught me a whole new level of passion and working to preserve what you believe in. We worked on the Upper Yellowjacket Trail with three amazing volunteers. I personally have never been one for volunteering, but watching these three individuals with different backgrounds and experiences come together for their love of Wilderness got to me. They all worked so hard and for free. We ended up clearing out fallen trees, creating French drains, cleaning up the the trail with retread, digging some new tread, and brushing up the sides of the trail. The fact that these people would willingly dedicate their free time to digging in the dirt and mud, chopping up roots, hauling heavy buckets loaded with rocks, and cutting down trees -both in the cold rain with heavy, wet boots and when it got hot in the afternoons- allowed me to understand what it is really like to be passionate about something.

At one point, we talked about how friends may think you’re crazy for dedicating your weekend to doing hard labor all for the sake of access to good trails. There are people out there who truly care about our Public Lands and the idea of Wilderness. To maintain access to these areas for all to enjoy, even those who don’t fully appreciate or understand the concept of Wilderness, takes a lot of effort. What is your level of dedication to the trails you use? Are you willing to take the challenge and volunteer your free time to help keep access to your favorite trails open and experience the bliss of solitude of independence of the back country?

Here's a shout out to our volunteers Larry, José, and Miranda! Thanks for all of your hard work this past week!! You have my respect.

Challenges and Rewards in the Backcountry

Avery King—Wilderness Ranger Intern

University of Idaho

Boulder Creek Trail, June 13-20

Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forest

Heading into my very first hitch of trail work ever, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been backpacking plenty of times before, but I’ve always been a fan of packing as light as possible. Carrying all the extra gear (and weight) that comes with trail work—hand tools, helmets, and crosscuts—was a huge change from what I was used to. Plus, I didn’t feel like I really knew how to use the tools I was carrying. The nervousness I felt seemed to add to the weight on my shoulders.

It didn’t take long, though, for the nervousness to ease away as I hiked those first few miles and remembered what I love about backpacking: the challenges your mind and body must overcome. Part of the challenge is facing the unknown, and even though it is scary, it can be pretty fun. After a week of slowly familiarizing myself with the world of trail work, I feel much more comfortable wielding an axe, running a crosscut, and pushing my body through long days of hard work. It makes me pretty excited to keep improving throughout the season!

The fourth day of our hitch was a day filled with both challenges and rewards. We woke up to a steady drizzle, and despite our hope for a dry break, the rain remained consistent for the entire workday. Within the first hour, the rain had soaked through my raingear and I was nearly drenched. But as a group, our spirits remained high throughout the day and we eventually made it to the top of the pass. Despite not being able to see the view we were promised because of the fog descending all around us, it was a beautiful spot that made the difficult hike more than worth it. As challenging as the day had been, I was satisfied to have reached our goal for the day and was extremely proud of my group for overcoming the obstacles we faced together.

PHOTO: Boulder Creek Trail at the Fish Lake Saddle

Wilderness FR Training continued

Our Wilderness First Responder Training stretched us.  We were required to respond to various situations, all crazier than we will ever have to deal with (hopefully).  The very first day we jumped into life threats such as punctured lungs and arterial bleeds.  I learned about many traumatic injuries that I had no idea were even possible. 

First 8 days Prepared and Ready

The first week as Wilderness Ranger Interns was gory, stressful, and hugely educational. I wrapped moist gauze about the avulsed eye of a grizzly-mauled man, at once knowing that his chest trauma, a flail chest, two or more ribs broken in two or more places, was the more life threatening of his worries.  Thankfully, after all the appropriate dressings were applied and trauma treated, Jeff stood up, ripped the rubbery dangling eyeball off, rubbed out the fake blood from the grizzly claws, and waited by the fire pit as we finished the scenario to critique our patient care.  This training has never been tested in the 8 years of the SBFC, but nevertheless, prepared we are.