2016 Nez Perce Clearwater Project Narratives

4/4 to 4/8/16: Fenn Front Country Work, Fenn Ranger Station, ID

To start off the 2016 field season Powell Trails Liaison Jesse Bergeson, Trail Crew Members Mallory Scharf, Elizabeth James and SBFC Programs Director Coby Gierke performed a variety of maintenance and improvement tasks around the Selway Falls Historic Cabin.  The Crew constructed a new Jack Leg Fence for the corral.  The fresh water system and plumbing for the cabin and the Corral were repaired and the cabin was cleaned and a lot of pack rat messes were taken care of. 


4/11 to 4/15/16: Fenn Front Country Work, Fenn Ranger Station, ID

Powell Trails Liaison Jesse Bergeson, Moose Creek Trail Liaison Eric Schweitzer, Trail Crew Leader Stephanie Wright, Trail Crew Members Mallory Scharf and Elizabeth James arrived back at Fenn Ranger Station and worked to complete the jack leg fence in the corral and also dug a hole to help the Roads crew. As the week went on, the crew worked on spur trails from the Selway Road - clearing trees, cleaning drains, widening tread, and brushing the corridors. The crew gained familiarity with the Forest Service personnel they would be working with for the field season and also got to know each other better as the SBFC team. Steph and Eric shared some knowledge from their axemanship training and they all got back into the swing of trailwork. The crew was again spoiled by the luxuries of the frontcountry dorm at Fenn Ranger Station but they were super excited to head into the Wilderness for the next hitch.


4/19 to 4/27/16:  Selway #4 Trail Clearing and Maintenance, Selway River, ID

The SBFCF 5 hiked from Race Creek TH all the way to the Goat Creek district boundary.  The staff removed a large rock obstructing the trail and finished clearing from Rattlesnake Bar to Goat Creek, opening the Selway Trail #4 for the Season.  Spirits were high as the SBFC Staff members hiked large mile days among prolific wildflowers and nice spring weather.  Bill McGlynn the host at Moose Creek was overly generous with ice cream, pie, and hot showers.  Great first backcounty hitch for the SBFC crew. 


5/3 to 5/10/16:  SBFC Staff Training, Lochsa Historic Station, ID

SBFC’s seasonal staff and Programs Director spent the week at the Lochsa Historic Station for staff training. As a super crew, they worked up Snoeshoe Trail #2. The crew brushed and cleared the trail, and installed a puncheon around mile 3 of the trail. The crew exchanged a lot of trails and wood knowledge while leading group lessons throughout the week including plant identification, LNT, and re-handling! The last day of training the crew spent cutting the stock trail of Warm Springs Creek.


5/17 to 5/25/16:  Warm Springs Trail Clearing,  Powell, ID

Eric Schweitzer and Stephanie Wright worked up warm springs trail 49 for most of this hitch. The two of them cleared lots of trees!! Two hundred and thirty three to be exact-ish. They worked their way to Warm Springs Creek and it was too large to cross. Their last day of work up there it rained all day!! This made their breaks short and work longer! When they came out they heard there was a tree down over at Weir Hot Springs, so they cut that out too. The next day they scouted opposing sides of split creek and spent the night at LHRS.  They next day they helped to do some work around the Historic Station with Connie Sailor Johnson and the backcountry horseman. The following day they met two wilderness rangers from the Bitteroot Nation Forest and taught 5th graders about LNT.


5/20 to 5/23/16: Boulder Creek Trail Clearing, Wilderness Gateway, ID

While camping at the Lochsa Historic Ranger Station, Powell Trails Liaison Jesse Bergeson, Bitterroot Lead Steward Courtney Wall, and two Wilderness Stewardship Interns commuted each day to the Boulder Creek Trailhead #211. Day 1, they cleared trees with a crosscut and silky saws to the junction about 4.5 miles up trail 211. They cleaned up the campsite at the junction, removing about 3lbs of trash. The remaining work days they brushed approximately two miles of trail beginning from the trailhead.


6/2 to 6/10/16: Wilderness Ranger Intern Technical Skills Training, Lochsa Historic Station, ID

SBFC’s entire seasonal staff and interns worked in the Nez Perce/ Clearwater National Forest and conducted Wilderness Ranger Intern Technical Skills Training. The crews split up the days working at different stations including campsite inventorying, trail structure building, cross-cutting, basic trail maintenance, and defensive horsemanship. The crews also did some invasive weed eradication and obtained their crosscut saw certifications. Evening sessions were conducted with several local figures of note including Jim Renshaw, Penny Keck, as well as a Wilderness film night. During a night in Syringa, the board treated Staff and Interns with their presence and dinner at an informal meet and greet session. The area was explored around Lochsa Historic Station and the crews enjoyed swimming at Fish Creek. Bitterroot Lead Wilderness Steward Courtney Wall led an evening examining Wilderness interactions. After spending six days at Lochsa Historic Station the crews headed to the West Fork Ranger Station on the Bitterroot National Forest for saw certification. They discussed saw and ax use and safety which culminated with the interns and staff being certified in Crosscut use by the US Forest Service. Overall it was a successful training time in the woods.


6/14 to 6/22/16:  Boulder Creek Drainage Trail Maintenance, Wilderness Gateway, ID

The SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern crew led by Jesse Bergeson, cleared from Wilderness Gateway heading East along Boulder Creek Trail #211 all the way to Fish Lake.    The Crew was lucky enough to work out of the Horse Camp Cabin and the Fish lake cabin for the majority of the hitch.  There were a lot of rocks and trees removed from the trail, which made it completely open and passable to stock for the first time in 2016. 


6/14 to 6/22/16:  Cove Lakes Area Trail Clearing, Fog Mountain Saddle, ID

The SBFC CFLR Trail Crew, the Moose Creek Trails Liaison and one Wilderness Ranger Intern worked on the Cove Lakes Trail #3 this hitch. The first couple days were spent logging out the trail and Gedney Mountain. There was snow up high and they cut out everything except what couldn't be seen underneath the snow. They spent their time on the way back brushing 5 miles of the trail. They then camped at the trail head and cut and brushed a mile of the Big Rock trail #693 up to the wilderness boundary.


6/28 to 7/6/16:  Storm Creek Trail Clearing,  Elk Summit, ID

Jesse Bergeson and three Wilderness Ranger Interns worked alongside with USFS Wilderness Ranger Ben Wilson to clear down trees from the Storm Creek Trail from Beaver Ridge, along Storm Creek, and up to Maude Ridge.   It was a very hot and tiring hitch but the crew was able to clear and maintain almost the entire Maude Ridge loop. 


6/28 to 7/6/16:  Clearing and Maintenance on Trails 626, 621, and 602, Indian Hill, ID

This hitch the SBFC CFLR Trail Crew and one Wilderness Ranger Intern spent 8 days working from the Indian Hill trailhead on trails #621, #626, and #602. The crew focused their work mostly on crosscut and axe work, cutting out over 500 logs from the trail. The trail was left in a  very passable condition. Certain sections of those trails need to be brushed and a small amount of tread work can be done by crews in the future.


6/28 to 7/6/16:  Meadow Creek Trail Maintenance,  Meadow Creek, ID

After last year's fire, Trail #726 up Meadow Creek, has seen dramatic change. Large areas of burned trees line most of the first 5 miles of the trail and debris fields inundated the trail. Moose Creek Trail Liaison Eric Schweitzer’s efforts on the Meadow Creek Trail this year began on June 28th when he met with USFS Wilderness Ranger Ben Wilson and the MCC Crew out of Missoula at Fenn Ranger Station. Ben gave Eric the opportunity to help him pack and assist in loading the mules at the trail-head to carry the MCC's gear into their camp at "Little Creek". Eric really appreciated this opportunity to apply some of the packing skills he has learned and was glad to learn from Ben. After getting to the MCC camp Ben headed back towards the trail-head and the trail work got under-way the next day. Upon scouting the Trail with Joey Hudek, the MCC Crew Leader, the crew realized the volume of work ahead of them. Large trees had fallen in the trail and needed cutting on the steep slopes leading up to Indian Hill. The trail was covered in small and medium sized rocks and the tread surface was non-existent in some areas, covered under large amounts of soil that had sloughed off from above. Add to that, several areas in need of retaining walls and an undermined culvert and the crew was in for a good time! The crew worked through hot, challenging situations to address all of these issues as they reached them on the trail. One afternoon was particularly dusty while doing the many re-tread sections along the trail. The crew was able to learn how to address issues after a burn. They made it about three miles from "Little Creek" towards "Indian Hill Creek" where Joey scouted to find the MCC's next campsite. On the Fourth of July the crew all enjoyed swimming in Meadow Creek and a reading from Martin Luther King Jr. courtesy of the MCC's development program.


7/12 to 7/20/16:  Clearing and Maintenance on Trails 939, 618, and 619;  Elk Summit, ID

For hitch three the SBFC CFLR Trail Crew cleared 216 trees from 15 miles along trails 939, 618, and 619. The crew also cleaned two drains, removed rock from one mile of trail, carried out ten lbs of trash, fixed six feet of tread, hiked 42 miles and had one uncomfortable bear encounter.  They also had the opportunity to camp next to Maple and Isaac Lake and above May Lake. It was a buggy and beautiful hitch with amazing views of the Bitterroot drainages from the Idaho side.


7/12 to 7/21/16: Warm Springs Creek Drainage Trail Clearing, Powell, ID

This past pay period Eric Schweitzer joined the four Nez/Clear Interns to work from the Warm Springs Trailhead on trail #49, towards Grave Peak on "Wind Lakes" trail #24, and loop back around on "Saturday Ridge" Trail #89 through "Warm Springs Pass" and back to the trailhead on #49. They base-camped for several days at the outfitter camp at the trails #24/#49 junction and then began bumping camp to complete their loop. There were many downed trees present on the trail; beetle-killed, burned, and some from wind events. There were many trees to cut and the interns were able to work on their skills with Cross-cut saws and axes. Wilderness Ranger Intern Calle Ries enjoyed using a double-bit ax she took to calling "Lucy", while interns Mickey Figueroa and Mark Vandlik were an effective team clearing trees with the saw, and  intern Dani Jones was able to move large logs without needing to cut them using lifting techniques she uses in the gym. The crew was making great progress on their way to Grave Peak but hit many trees in a recent burn around "Warm Springs Pass". After that they continued to hit large sections of downed-trees on trail #49 and eventually had to walk over 78 logs after working their full amount of hours for the hitch.


7/26 to 7/30/16:  IDAWA at Wind Lakes,  Grave Peak, ID

SBFC's Programs Director, Coby Gierke, joined the Dallas County Iowa Conservation Group of 15 high school students and instructors for five days of work in the Wind Lakes Area of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. The crew cleared logs from the trail, cut back brush, cleaned drains and spent a wonderful day visiting the summit of Graves Peak.


7/27 to 8/1/16:  Swamp Creek Trail Clearing Project,  Elk Summit, ID

Powell Trails Liaison, Jesse Bergeson, and two Wilderness Ranger Interns spent the hitch leading a single hardy volunteer, Kelley Green, in a trail clearing project down the Swamp Creek Trail #22.  There was a huge amount of blowdown across the trail and the crew made  slow progress.    Morale was high despite hot weather and aggressive bugs.  Kelley Green, the lone volunteer, was great and SBFC’s Programs Director showed up for a day and gave everyone a good boost. 


7/26 to 8/3/16:  Mink Peak and Buck Lake Area Trail Clearing,  Magruder Corridor, ID

The SBFC CFLR trail crew plus Wilderness Ranger Intern Dani Jones spent the hitch working from the Elk Mountain trail head to Mink Peak and Buck Lake. They logged out 236 trees and cleaned 132 drains on trails 602 and 438. By the end of the hitch the group had also hiked 45 miles, dug 30 feet of tread and fixed one sign. The ladies got a view of the columns of dense smoke rising from the Roaring Lion fire and Cedar Creek fire from the ridge above Mink Peak.


7/25 to 8/2/16:  Meadow Creek Trail Maintenance,  Meadow Creek, ID

This pay period Eric Schweitzer again joined the MCC Crew led by Joey Hudek. Some members have since moved on from his crew but the cast of characters was mostly the same as well as the work, with one addition: a crew member named Kevin. The main goal was to get the trail passable to "Pell Creek" where the Crew plans to camp and base-out of for next hitch. Throughout the work-time the crew contended with hot and dusty conditions and again Eric was impressed by this MCC crew, which was down to 5 people, that was able to accomplish the work of a more sizable MCC group. They are rock stars. Several areas along the trail were punched-out requiring rock retaining walls which the crew constructed using found materials. Large sections of re-tread were also needed in areas impacted by slides from soil erosion, which comprised the bulk of the work. These areas may continue to slide and the crew plans to deal with them as needed in their two following pay-periods on this trail. The beginning of the week had them digging down to find the tread-surface by "Reverse Creek" and performing a re-route in a subsequent drainage.  They later progressed towards rock construction where needed and Sam, Zack, and Kevin again proved their abilities using technical rock-work principles on small and large retaining walls. Joey was able to break-through the trees by 7/31/16 and the crew’s  final focus was on problem areas near "Pell Creek". The burn becomes less severe in that area and they were all treated to some well-earned shade in green trees by a babbling brook near their next camp.


8/8 to 8/13/16:  Walton Lakes Trail Clearing and Maintenance, Tom Beal Park, ID

Powell Trails Liaison, Jesse Bergeson, SBFC Programs Director, Coby Gierke, and the Nez-Perce Clearwater Wilderness Ranger Interns spend the hitch clearing Walton Lake trail #79.  They began work at the Walton Lake trailhead and set up a base camp at upper Walton Lake.  After a few days of clearing they hiked back to the rig and moved camp to Savage Pass.  From Savage Pass they cleared West on trail #79 connecting to where they left off.  The trail was completely cleared from Walton Lakes TH to Savage pass.


8/9 to 8/29/16:  Fish Lake Back to Back Hitches,  Fish Lake, ID

The first part of the SBFC CFLR Trail Crew’s back to back hitches at Fish Lake was spent clearing the trail north of Fish Lake towards North Moose creek. The ladies cleared trails #39, #263, #465, to the junction North Moose Creek. They cleared 316 trees, completed 2 miles of brushing, cleaning 80 drains along the way in. They hiked over 60 miles each.

The second half of the crew’s back to back Fish Lake hitches was with the USFS trail crew.  Together as one large team, they cleared trail # 211 from Fish Lake to the Junction of #211, #213 and #60.  From there they cleared the loop up an over McConnell Mountain via trails #213 and #60 and out towards the Warm Springs trail on #917. Fifty of the 139 trees logged out where in an impressive blow down above Wag Meadows. The crew hiked 66.5 miles per person, kicked rocks from a few miles of trail and listen to wolves as they drank their coffee in the mornings.


8/23 to 9/1/16:  Bridge Creek Trail Clearing, Elk Summit, ID  

SBFC’s Trails Liaisons and two USFS Wilderness Rangers cleared north on the Bridge Creek Trail #28 from the Elk Summit Road to the junction with Big Sand Creek trail #1. From there the crew continued clearing east on trail #1. There were a lot of burned trees down on the trail and they were never able to clear more than .25 miles in one day. The crew had really nice weather for most of the hitch with a lot of smoke coming from two fires near us near the end of the trip.


9/6 to 9/13/16:  Big Fog Mountain Area Trail Maintenance,  Fog Mountain, ID

The SBFC CRLR trail crew worked out of the Big Fog Saddle Trailhead down the Big Rock trail # 693. The crew cleared over 200 trees in an 11 mile stretch of trail.  They also got dirty while digging over 150 feet of tread and cleaning all the drains along the way. This beautiful trail is now open for everyone to enjoy, at least until snow closes the Big Fog road. 


9/7 to 9/13/16:  Boyd Creek, Warm Springs, Wind Lakes, and McConnell Mountain Trails Maintenance, Various Locations, ID

Moose Creek Trails Liaison, Eric Schweitzer, met up with the MCC YCL super Crew at Fenn Ranger Station on Wednesday 9/7 to work on Boyd Creek Trail #703. Their main focus was re-treading the switch-backs leading out of the Selway River Drainage towards the "Coolwater Road".  Eric served as a technical adviser for two days before meeting-up with USFS River Ranger Lisa Buchanan at the tool cache to start a log-out on "Warm Springs" Trail #49. Their work also included inventorying several campsites along route they were clearing. The two of them made camp by an outfitter with several clients and discussed their camping practices and success out hunting. They were able to clear the section of trail Eric and the Wilderness Ranger Interns had to leave July and scouted a trail that hasn't seen a crew this year.


9/20 to 9/26/16:  Stanley Hotsprings Area Volunteer Project, Wilderness Gateway, ID

Jesse Bergeson led a crew of volunteers on a trail project based near Stanley Hot Springs. The crew worked trail's # 211 and #222 over the course of five days. The Volunteer crew spent their days cleaning drains, digging ditches and culverts, and brushing the trail. As an added bonus the volunteers were able to spend their evenings soaking in a beautiful natural hot spring in the Wilderness.


9/20 to 9/28/16:  Hidden Peak Area Trail Clearing, Elk Summit, ID

Eric Schweitzer joined USFS employees Lisa Buchanan and Ben Wilson to continue cutting out the "Bridge Creek" Trail towards Hidden Peak on the Powell Ranger District. Their work was primarily in the burn and they continued removing downfall using cross-cuts and posted a new sign for the trails #10 and #1 junction for which they felled a tree. Through our work week they were able to observe and hear wildlife in the area including one elk, a pack of wolves, and pikas. After completing their objective of cutting-out the "Bridge Creek" Trail to where the outfitter cleared they headed up the trail towards hidden peak to join a USFS Trail Crew working towards the peak. The crew cleared logs that they had stepped over the day before and removed many pack bumps, as well as brushing the trail and cutting many small lodgepole trees. It was a rainy hitch to start out but the sun appeared towards the end and dried their wet gear. It was a nice time to be in the woods for sure! 


9/20 to 9/28/16:  Diablo Mountain Loop Trail Clearing, Elk Summit, ID

For hitch 8 the SBFC CFLR trail crew ladies did a loop around Diablo Peak fire look out. Starting at Elk Summit they hiked along trails #4, #421, and #486 clearing as they went. Courtney Wall, SBFC’s Bitterroot Lead Steward, joined the ladies for the last four days of the hitch making it possible for the crew to finish the loop in a timely fashion. The first five days where quite wet but in true Selway fall fashion, the weather went from dreary to beautiful in less than 24 hours. The nice weather had the elk moving and Mallory and Elizabeth were serenaded by a bugling elk for about an hour as they crosscut together for the last time this season.


10/3 to 10/12/16:  East Fork Moose Creek Trail Clearing, Elk Summit, ID

The SBFC CFLR trail crew plus the two SBFC Trails Liaisons worked on trail #486 from the Elk Summit Road trailhead. More specifically, the crew worked on a two mile stretch of trail after the Cedar Creek crossing. This section of trail had recently been burned over from the East Moose Fire.  The crew encountered many large downed cedar trees that took a good deal of time and skill to remove from the trail.  The crew finished off this hitch and many of their seasons with a day of meetings and a night of celebrating at Powell Ranger Station.   


10/14 to 10/16/16:  Stanley Hotsprings Volunteering with Washington State University Outdoor Program, Wilderness Gateway, ID

For the final mini project of the 2016 field season, SBFC’s Powell Trails Liaison and one member of the SBFC CFLR trail crew led a group of students from Washington State University on a short stewardship project near Stanley Hotsprings.  While on the trail the group cut back brush and removed rocks on the Boulder Creek Trail.  They also spent time clearing trees up the trail towards Lone Knob.

From the top of Big Fog Mountain to the bottom of Three Links Creek

Stephanie Wright - Trail Crew Leader

This hitch (9/6-9/14) we cleared from the top of Big Fog Mtn 693 to the bottom of Three Links creek. We cleared over 200 trees 7 of which were over 25 inches in diameter. We also dug 250 feet of tread in sections of the tread that were unpassable. We also cleared drains from the junction of 405 to the bottom of 693. Total trail maintained: 12.2 miles.

About a mile past the junction of 405 and 693 going towards three links, a tree fell and its root wad, which was under the trail at the time lifted, destroying a 75 ft section of the trail. Its not passable where the trail was, but its fairly easy to walk on the uphill side. See attached photos for details.

Late Season Trail Work Progress

Stephanie Wright - Trail Crew Leader

PP16- Trail Crew spent the first hitch (8/9-8/18) of our back to back time at Fish Lake working on trails 39, 263, and 465, to the junction of North Moose Creek. We cleared 316 trees (not including USFS crew) cleaned 80 drains, brushed 2 miles of trail and rocked 3 miles of trail and 700 feet of re-tread. We also spent the last day of the first hitch clearing trail 211 from Fish Lake Cabin towards McConnell Mountain.

Trail 263/465 could use approximately 2 miles of on-and-off re-tread. Everything is passable, but the trail itself is uneven and slowly creeping downward. It is also slightly brushy… another thing a crew could do out there if they finished the re-tread.

PP17- Our second hitch (8/21-8/29) we cleared 211 from Fish Lake Cabin to McConnell Mountain (trails 213, 60, 211) After finishing that loop we worked 3 miles up 917. There were 139 trees total, 50 of them were in one blow down above wag meadows. Hiking a total of 66.5 miles and rocking 3 miles of trail. The trail was lost hiking north down McConnell Mountain—retread would help with that (it’s also an old burn, and a secondary trail).

ICT Work @ Marble Creek

Hitch #4 Blog Post by AJ Baeseman - 2016 Wilderness Ranger Intern

On a hot, sunny day in July, volunteers and SBFC members met up in Yellow Pine to take on the most famous section of the Idaho Centennial Trail, Marble Creek. Everyone had different motives for giving their time off to do work improving our trails; some were avid ICT hikers trying to make the trail more accessible, others to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the RIver of No Return, and others still who just love to roll up their sleeves and move some logs.

Lida Wise, Payette Lead Steward (above), lining out the plans for the week with the crew.

During the week, our fantastic packers, Bill and Joe, shuttled our kitchen and extra gear to our camp. A few volunteers even got to work on their horsemanship skills.


Bill shows Hannah some riding skills. The most technical and strenuous work, however, started about 6 miles in when the crew collided with the renowned marble creek log jam. A combination of beaver architecture and avalanche behavior, the log jam was a formidable obstacle for both hikers and trail dogs alike.

Bill shows Hannah some riding skills.

The most technical and strenuous work, however, started about 6 miles in when the crew collided with the renowned marble creek log jam. A combination of beaver architecture and avalanche behavior, the log jam was a formidable obstacle for both hikers and trail dogs alike.

Lida and Dave assessing the situation on the far side of the jam The very real challenge when dealing with log jams is that everything is connected. Moving one log has consequences that can be far reaching and interfere with the disposal of other logs, or even create more danger for the crews working there. Every cut made has to be carefully thought through, and even when you have the perfect plan, proper execution can be challenging. Trees can be very heavy and unpredictable.

Lida and Dave assessing the situation on the far side of the jam

The very real challenge when dealing with log jams is that everything is connected. Moving one log has consequences that can be far reaching and interfere with the disposal of other logs, or even create more danger for the crews working there. Every cut made has to be carefully thought through, and even when you have the perfect plan, proper execution can be challenging. Trees can be very heavy and unpredictable.

A hard earned lunch time Everyone put a huge amount of effort into making Marble Creek a better trail, and for that we thank you! However, there still is a lot more work to be done and Lida will be returning with another group of volunteers in late August to try and finish what we have started (some brave souls are returning for the second trip!)  

A hard earned lunch time

Everyone put a huge amount of effort into making Marble Creek a better trail, and for that we thank you! However, there still is a lot more work to be done and Lida will be returning with another group of volunteers in late August to try and finish what we have started (some brave souls are returning for the second trip!)


Smiles for Miles

Hitch #5 Blog Post by Jesse Bergeson - Powell Trails Liaison

The Selway intern crew spent their final field days working the beautiful Walton Lakes Trail.  We are happy to report that the trail is clear from the Walton Lake TH all the way to Savage pass.  They were lucky to have beautiful fall-like weather while they cleared fallen trees in this lovely (unburned) area.  

The crew was not alone as they enjoyed warm sun, they also witnessed a marmot defend his rock crag home with high pitched chirps and warning calls.  The lakes are a popular overnight trip or day hike for fishing.

Huckleberries can still be found if you know where to look, with some green ones still on their way to sweetness.  

Get out and explore the area during this great time of year!

A Legacy of Self Reliance

Hitch #4 Blog Post by Lida Wise - Payette Lead Steward

As far as the eye can see for 360 degrees -- mountains.  Not a single road or roof in sight.  Standing on top of Lookout Mountain in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, I slowly spin around and around, soaking it all in.  I’ve had a tough past couple days, and this vista was just what I needed to reaffirm my desire to be out here.  I remind myself, Wilderness is not supposed to be easy.  If it wasn’t challenging at times, it would not be wild.  And that’s exactly one of my reasons for coming out here - to overcome the challenging times so I know how strong I can be.  I lay under a pine, close my eyes, and listen to the soothing sound of the wind in the needles.  The breeze is a welcome respite on a hot day.  I watch a cloud shift shapes - just a bunch of dust particles rolling around itself.   These simplicities bring me back to center.  I am content.

Later, we fix dinner on the remains of a fire lookout tower.  Who lived here before?  What was their story?  More than ever before in my life, I feel a part of a legacy.  With no signs of recent human activity and very rare visitor contact, we are always surprised to come across such permanent-seeming signs from the past quickly vanishing back into scree and soil.  Besides the old concrete lookout foundation, we come across telephone insulators, rusty tin cans, an old game of horseshoes.  Humans have forged into remote rugged areas for years before I’ve been around, and it hasn’t been easy.  I like to think that I am continuing the legacy of self-reliance in Wilderness.  Like the lookout who occupied this mountaintop before me, I am living devoid of modern communication, technology-dependent entertainment, and easy access to food and water.  It is not always a stroll through a green grassy park - sometimes the trail is steep and hot and dusty and you take it one grudging step at a time.  But inevitably, you emerge a more resilient individual, more capable of appreciating simple things, and with a respect for the legacy of self-reliance in the Wilderness.

Warm Springs to Grave Peak back to Saturday Ridge

Hitch #4 Blog Post by Eric Schweitzer - Fenn/Moose Creek Trail Liaison

For Hitch three I joined the four Nez/Clear Interns to work from the Warm Springs Trailhead, towards Grave Peak, and loop back around on “Saturday Ridge” Trail #89 through “Warm Springs Pass” and back to the trailhead. You can never be sure what a work rotation will hold for you. How many trees will there be? Will we have mostly digging to do? Did I bring enough food? Are three packs of Ramen healthy for an average adult? I don’t know! Our base-camp was located in a prime spot, used by an outfitter, and was a treat to be at for three nights. There were many downed trees on the trail; beetle-killed, burned, and some from wind events which made our work difficult at times.

With such a high volume of trees we were all able to improve our skills with Cross-cut saws and axes. Calle enjoyed using a double-bit ax she took to calling “Lucy”, Mickey and Mark were an effective team clearing trees with the saw, and Dani was able to move large logs without needing to cut them using lifting techniques she uses in the gym. We were moving well through our time to Grave Peak and enjoyed a night at Wind Lake looking up at the Look-out. I was able to put my fly-fishing rod together and through the clouds of mosquitoes caught a nice Cut-throat Trout. After that we continued to hit large sections of downed-trees on the trail and eventually had to walk over 78 logs after working our full time. It’s always an experience to be out in the Wilderness and even if we didn’t get all of the trees we still got 1,076 off the trail. See you out on the dusty trail!


2 Miles, 6 Days & 900 Trees later....................

Hitch #4 Blog Post by Calle Ries - SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern

As we first approached the trailhead of the Swamp Creek Trail 22, we had no idea what was in store for us. It was just the four of us; Jesse, our trail crew leader, Mark, one of the ranger interns, Kelley, our ambitious volunteer who was coming out on hitch with us, and myself. When we first saw the beginning of the trail we knew that we were going to be cutting a lot of trees, but we couldn’t guess just how many there would be.

During our six days of clearing Trail 22, we covered 2 miles and cut out around 900 trees from the trail. It was slow going the first few days, and we could hardly walk for 30 steps before we approached the next jumble of trees. On the bright side, at the end of the day when we walked back through the trail we had just cleared, it was a shocking difference to see how nice of a trail it was. There was a certain sense of accomplishment felt when we could enjoy the trail we had put our blood, sweat, and tears into clearing, and, in my opinion, that’s one of the most rewarding feelings.

On the third day of the hitch, we saw a fire start up that was only on the other side of the ridge right next to us. We saw the smoke plume get bigger as the days went on, and by the last day the entire sky was filled with smoke. We were never in danger from the fire, but for me, I felt a sense of awe at being so close to this wildfire. It turned the sun a strange orange hue, and it was as if we were in a perpetual golden hour, or some kind of apocalyptic world. Luckily, between the smoke and the heat, the insects were mostly kept at bay besides some flies that pestered us a good while. The fire definitely added an interesting element, and it made my experience richer and just that much wilder.

All in all, it was a fantastic hitch and we put in a lot of good work. Our volunteer Kelley was a hard worker and helped us get to our lofty total tree count.  Kelley made the hitch that much more enjoyable! I hope that whoever goes out on that trail next is able to enjoy the scenery and the wildflowers as much as I did, with a clear trail hike on.

Huckleberries & High Spirits - Nez-Pearce/Clearwater NF

Hitch #3 - Blog Post by Mark Vandlik - SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern

Despite a shaky start, the 3rd Hitch went smoothly for the ranger interns working in the Nez-Pearce/Clearwater National Forest.  Inundated with heavy rain and crashing thunder on our hike in, the first night was a rather wet one.  Despite waterlogged boots, however, the crew's spirits remained high and the weather eventually shaped up.  Interns Danilo “Mickey” Figueroa, Dani Jones, Calle Ries, and Mark Vandlik hit the Warm Springs (Jerry Johnson) Trail #49 with Moose Creek Trails Liaison, Eric Schweitzer.

Our plan was to clear the trail in a loop from the junction of Warms Springs Trail #49 and Wind Lakes Trail #24, up to Wind Lakes, along Saturday Ridge (Tr. #89), and back down the Warm Springs Trail— a total trip of around eighteen miles.  The going was rather slow with a lot of downed trees and several stream crossings, but we eventually made our way up to Wind Lakes, battling bloodthirsty mosquitoes and nettlesome no-see-ums all the while.  The ladies on the crew decided to forgo the bites and instead donned black funeral veils, adding a somber tone to the days’ work.  That evening made up for all the trouble, as we watched the sunlight slowly recede along the rock face above Wind Lake’s seemingly out of character placid waters; casting our flies to rising cutthroat in the shadow of the old Grave’s Peak lookout, made famous by Missoula’s Norman Mclean who stood atop the point back in 1919. 

After climbing out of the lake and taking to the high country, the bugs subsided enough to allow us to gorge ourselves on the prevalent huckleberries in relative peace.  And so we ended our hitch fat and happy, just like the black bears we shared the trail with.  In the end, we weren’t able to finish the entire assigned task, but our work was admirable as it opened up that much more beautiful territory to be enjoyed by our fellow lovers of wilderness.