Clearing Blodgett post Microbursts

July 14-17 was spent getting the Blodgett Trail cleared.  A series of microbursts left a multitude of downed trees in tricky jacksaw configurations that required a ton of limbing and site clean-up before any good assessment of how the trees could be cut and moved could be done.  The project went well, thevolunteers had fun, but the work was tough going.  We were able to cut about 1.25 miles of trail beyond the campsite at 7-mile meadow.  Four saw teams cut 151 trees, many of which were in the 35-40 inch diameter range.  That said, they had some dynamic trees that moved a lot when cut and quite a few root balls that stood up with quite a bit of tree trunk still attached.  With safety and caution a priority we completed the project in good shape. 

Hikers who came from the Elk Summit/Big Sand Lake area in Idaho said the blowdown continues to the junction of trails 19 and 310 with a considerable amount of blowdown over in Idaho as well.  The hikers estimated that there are about 300 more trees down on the trail between where we finished and Blodgett Pass.

We are moving hitches around to focus on getting Blodgett cleared which means other trails will be left for another year.

Another successful 4th on St. Mary's

St. Mary’s Peak is a moderately strenuous climb, just a short 3.5ish miles to rewarding views into the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness at 9,351’. It is one of the most accessible peaks in the Bitterroot, therefore making it a very popular trail. However, if you’ve done this hike before you may know that the trailhead fills up quickly and if you happen to bring horses, there is rarely a spot to park a trailer. In order to provide access for horse users, the Forest Service, partnered with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), designed and implemented a new trail about 2 years ago that tied in to a pre-existing “old” trail that adds provides parking for stock trailers at the trailhead. The trail that was constructed by an MCC youth crew was designed with grade reversals and winding switchbacks. However, the old trail, which we don’t know too much about, simply climbs straight up hill, with a few switchbacks, but without any consideration of erosion prevention. So, with the help of 3SBFC interns and 5 volunteers, we spent 2 days building 16 waterbars and placing them in areas where water needed to be drained off of the trail. We were fortunate enough to have assistance from Bitterroot National Forest trails foreman, Steve Bull. After completing the waterbars we moved on to general maintenance on the main trail, cleaning drains and replacing the broken Wilderness sign post. With a lovely, sunny, lunch at the summit, I’d say it was a successful volunteer trip! Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers for the hard work and fun. Special thanks to Renee & Jay for going above and beyond while hosting us!

 

Monumental on So Many Levels

HITCH #2 BLOG POST BY - Jake Candeub –               SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern

Our trip started at the Lick Lake Trailhead and we started clearing trail June 28th and cut out trees with axes, a crosscut saw about 6 feet long, and Silkey Saws.  Lida, AJ and I working as a two man/one woman wrecking crew, hiked uphill and made the trail passable for people and for stock.  The first night was spent at Lick Lake about four miles from where we started.  Day two took us up and over a pass near the summit of Cougar Peak and into Cougar Basin.  The view from the top of the pass was very cool and was over 8,000 feet in elevation.  It was extraordinary to see the area that we were about to hike into from the vantage point above.  We then continued on to Bear Lake and obliterated some campsites and fire rings that were within 200 feet of the lake, which was within the camping restrictions set by the Forest Service around that particular lake.

The hike out of Cougar Basin the next day was pretty tough with some trees in the trail, but we made it up and over using our strong determination.  We then followed the West Fork of Monumental creek and camped in a stand of trees for the night about 200 feet from the creek.  After we set up camp, the ominous sound of thunder, which had started a little earlier in the day, continued until a giant hailstorm started and left us laughing under our shelters at how big the hail actually was.  Each piece of hail was at least as big as a large grape.  The storm passed pretty quickly and was calm for the rest of the night, but was pretty intense there for a while.  The next few days were spent hiking way less miles and cutting out way more trees in the next section of the trail.  We camped for a few more nights and then hiked out of upper Monumental Trailhead and got picked up by Don who drove us back to Big Creek.  

Stock Safety and Pack Clinic with Squaw Butte BHC

A mini stock safety and pack clinic was held by Squaw Butte on Sunday, June 12, 2016.  Members of the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, Idaho Trail Alliance, and Idaho Centennial Trails Association as well as members of Squaw Butte participated.  We covered working safely around stock, Saddle fit and basic packing equipment ...................................for the entire story go to:

http://sbbch.org/2016/06/12/2016-pack-clinic/

Siah Lake - a day of Celebrations

Hitch #2 Blog Post - by Dani Jones

Hitch two turned out to be a success but it was not without its challenges. As we made our way around the Storm Creek trail up to Siah Lake we ran into some problem trees, some steep climbs, cuts and bruises, and even a lost boot down the creek. Even though we couldn't find one of our trail junctions for half of a morning, we were able to make up time and get stuff done. At times progress was very slow as there were a lot of trees down in some sections, but we were able to push ourselves and make it farther than we expected.
All in all it was a great hitch and we were able to clear most of the trail on our 17 mile loop. We finally made it to Siah Lake on Independence Day, and it was the cherry on top of a hot, hard worked hitch.

Snowpack and starry skies for the Summer Equinox

Hitch # 1 Blog Post – by Kelsey Johnasen

Hitch 1 for the Bitterroot crew turned into three shorter hitches, which meant we were able to work in three amazing places. We removed down trees from the trails and inventoried campsites. Our first trail was Bear Creek, where we worked through rain and eventually snow, and were rewarded with a beautiful alpine lake, in the afternoon of day three. The crew spent the evening hiking towards the pass above the lake, but unfortunately the trail was under snow and we had to turn back. We made a fire back at camp and Juraj shared a pot of hot chocolate with the rest of us. The next morning the sun finally came out and we hiked out in pleasant weather.

Our second trail was Canyon Creek. The rocky canyon had spectacular views and once again we got to see an amazing lake. The trail had less trees than expected so we finished up two days early and moved on to Sheafman Trail. We camped under a full moon on a rocky outcrop overlooking Hamilton. This job is taking us to some incredible places!   

"Slip on the ice, fall in the mud and dust yourself off....that's the Frank."

Hitch #1 Blog Post - by Brian Roach

“Snow, wind, rain, thunder snow, frost, graupel…what else can Frank throw at us?” said Wilderness Ranger Harrison Stone on the 5th day of our inaugural hitch in the Frank Church Wilderness.

How about some 90+ degree heat about 32 hours after a water bottle icing overnight frost? Yes, it was piping hot, too.

As the saying goes….“Slip on the ice, fall in the mud and dust yourself off….that's the Frank”.

Our “cut and run” mission in the Frank was memorable for a number of reasons, but mostly for the diversity of the weather.  There were morning and evening campfires 3 of the first 4 days to dry drenched socks, gloves and boots and thaw numb fingers.  While the last 2 days were all about hydration, finding shade and watching for sunbathing rattlesnakes.

The hitch started with a lung busting 4500’ climb over 6 miles several miles down the Salmon River from the popular Corn Creek raft launch.  The elevation gain was on par with the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon yet a couple miles shorter in distance. Fortunately, the Forest Service has the foresight to know that objective of the hitch wasn't the climb and provided full pack support courtesy of Ranger Geoff Fast, Ajax, and a team of 4 mules.  (On the way down, we weren't so lucky.)  

Over the following 6 days our team of 3 worked our way along 2 trails that border with the Bitterroot National Forest mostly through an area heavily damaged by the 2012 Mustang Wildfire. Colleague Bob Myers and I were on the crosscut while Ranger Stone prepped trees in advance of us.  In all, we removed over 200 trees blocking the trail.  Just like the diverse weather we saw an incredible range of situations of what happens when a tree falls across a Frank Church trail.  

The hitch was successful both in terms of what we accomplished, but also in terms of what we learned.  The Wilderness Ranger team back at the North Fork District saluted our results with a couple of cold beverages in bustling downtown North Fork, ID the evening of our return. With 4 more hitches to go I think Bob and I are 100% more prepared for what the Frank will bring this summer.  We’re up for the challenge and look forward to its unpredictability.