The Ranger Rag | SBFC Blog

Keep tabs on the SBFC through our field blog, “The Ranger Rag.”

Thanks to our exceptional volunteers!

July 26th, 2015

 

 

Jake Henry 2

With the third hitch behind us, it is finally safe to say that I am pooped! The other interns and I have battled through some very hard work and have quite literally conquered mountains. We have been covered in everything from mosquitos to dirt, blood, and sweat… It has been awesome! We are all becoming stronger and certainly more skilled with the tools that we use on the trails. We just finished our third hitch of the season and we were lucky enough to have volunteers on the trip. It made things very different from the way that they usually are. Jake Henry 1The volunteers bring something to the trip that could be described as a curious passion for nature. It means so much to me to see that there are people out there willing to sacrifice their time and energy to help out and get some work done. All of the hitches have been great but this past one in particular was special. Any time that you get that many passionate people together, great things happen. I am greatly looking forward to continuing my work and my next few hitches. I wouldn’t replace my fellow interns with anyone else in the world. I love working with them and I cannot wait to keep it up.

Jake Henry – Eastern Kentucky University

 

 

Harrington 2

July 26th, 2015

Harrington 1SBFC staff, interns, and volunteers spent 6 days in the Frank Church crosscutting trees out of Harrington Ridge Trail no. 9. We were gifted with storms, solitude, and 360 degree views the entire hike. 

Harrington 2

Melinda Horne – University of Montana

 

Harrington Ridge – the drama of nature

July 26th, 2015

Vivian MapThis past hitch the Selway-Bitterroot team went over to the Frank Church for a lesson in remoteness. Getting to our trail, Harrington Ridge, was an effort in itself. First, we drove 60 miles on the infamously rough Magruder Corridor to reach Salmon Mountain base camp. Then from the trailhead, we hiked 10 miles in to Swet Lake Cabin, which was just off the junction to Harrington Ridge Trail.

The impending thunderstorms looming over the drive up provided dramatic lighting for an intensely dynamic landscape, one that alternated from dense walls of forests to wide open tracts of burned areas.

The Magruder Corridor is the sole divider of the Selway-Bitterroot and the Frank Church River of No Return Wildernesses. Together, these two wilderness areas make up the largest block of wilderness in the US– and the views reflect this. This isolated location came with incredible views of seemingly unending wilderness and mountains. Stopping at Nez Perce Pass- the meeting point between Idaho and Montana- it was only mountains as far as the eye can see stretching from the East to the West. It was as if you could walk forever and only be climbing mountains.

The trip started with a night at Salmon Basecamp, under the cover of the season’s first thunderstorms.

These were not our only encounters with storms, the first half of our trip was filled with thunderstorm and hail. Not only that, but our entire route was basically composed of ridges so we were not only exposed to incredible panoramic views but also to the elements. This made being out and experiencing the views all the more worth it as the storms intensified the scenery, with billowing clouds that would speed overhead, oscillating the lighting from darkness to brilliance in a matter of minutes.

With this weather, we remained flexible and erred on the safe side, which translated to 3 nights in the cabin. The first two nights were wet and cold, and the cabin was a warm, dry haven. We ended up clearing 5.25 miles of quickly disappearing trail (due to its remote location is barely used/maintained) with our fantastic volunteers, Bryce and Josh.

Overall, this ridge trip was a reminder of how moving and powerful wilderness can be.

Vivian Ly – Stanford

 

 

Dagger Falls – Thoughts on Wilderness……

July 26th, 2015

Dagger FallsI’m currently sitting at Dagger Falls Campground, on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Middle Fork is a Wild & Scenic River and a premier destination for floaters in Idaho. The falls are absolutely stunning, our campground is covered in Mariposa lilies, and the air is filled with the scent of lodgepole pine and subalpine fir. We’ve already seen pine marten, pika, and we just missed the annual Chinook salmon run by a week. Despite having all the “feels” of wilderness, this campground is similar to many others in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in that the road leading up to the campground creates a “cherry stem”—a long, narrow non-wilderness intrusion—in the wilderness boundary. Considering that we’re over two hours from any paved road and at least three hours from any sort of advanced medical care, many perspectives would say we’re in “wilderness”, despite the fact that this campground is accessible by vehicle and the actual Wilderness boundary lies about 100 yards on either side of us. This common condition of “cherry stemming” in the Frank Church-River of No Return reflects the larger historical context of this Wilderness and poses questions for the future management of this vast place.

 

While the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness was designated in 1964 with the passage of the Wilderness Act, the Frank Church-River of No Return was not federally recognized until 1980. As one can deduce, this delayed designation came with many more compromises in the legislature—more “cherry stems”, a large number of airstrips, many private inholdings—as well as a generally tenuous “wilderness culture” when compared to the Selway-Bitterroot. From what I can tell based on my limited experience here so far, the somewhat wilderness-resistant character is wearing off in the River of No Return as our nation’s attitude toward wilderness becomes more admirable and more people catch wind of the largest, most unexplored contiguous Wilderness area in the lower 48. Nonetheless, the original compromises cannot be undone.

I now realize that most of my distaste with this all-too-familiar situation of compromises in Wilderness is actually rooted in guilt. As I become more accustomed to this area and the general workings of federal management agencies, such concessions become commonplace. However, my straight shootin’, deep-down wilderness steward self knows that we—both as a country with Wilderness in its veins and as wilderness stewards—can do much better than that. I feel guilty that I’m letting such lackadaisical wilderness management go unquestioned, unchallenged, and un-retaliated.

I understand that compromise is fundamental to functional legislature and I have the upmost respect for legislators that are willing to defend Wilderness, but it is also crucial to maintain a constituency that stands firm on the grounds of wilderness character and questions the decisions of our lawmakers. Only then can we live up to the title “Guardians of Freedom”.

 

Peter Breigenzer-University of Montana

New Turnpike for the Yellowjacket Project

July 26th, 2015

We began our journey by meeting our first 5 volunteers and 4 Forest Service crew members the night of June 20 at Yellow Jacket Lake Campground where we made introductions over our first dinner together.

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The next morning we began with our daily yoga stretch after a good breakfast and then made our way 2 miles up the trail to base camp where we would be working for the next four days. Shortly after setting up camp we began to work on the turnpike across the marsh and made good progress even though the rain and lightning shut us down early.

The work over the next few days were long, hot and strenuous yet gratifying as we watched the project quickly come together. Everyone had a chance to work on all aspects of the job from running a crosscut saw and brushing to hauling, peeling logs, and putting them in place.

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There was also always a good dinner to look forward to at the end of the day; salmon one night, steak and potatoes the next, jambalaya on another, and everyone took a night to pitch in and cook so everyone else could take their time to relax.

The Drake Cooper Volunteers came in mid-week and thanks to their hard work helped us to finish the turnpike on time.

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I would like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work so that future generations will have an opportunity to visit these grand places. Thank you to Sally, Nikki, Sheryl, Tom and Leslie and our Drake Cooper volunteers; Amanda, Chase, Chris, Colleen, and Malia. I would also like to thank our Forest Service crew, Jeff, Harry, Rachel and Anne for your hard work. A big thanks to Coby also for taking the time out of his busy schedule to come out and lead this trip.

Hard work was done and new memories and new friendships were made. Thank you all again and may our paths cross again on the great trail of life.

WARM SPRINGS CREEK TRAIL, WIND LAKES, GRAVE PEAK LOOKOUT

July 8th, 2015

Well it’s already the end of hitch two. Greg, Ben, Taryn, Jake and I started out hiking the Warm Springs Creek Trail on day one. The weather forecast predicted this hitch to be a hot and dry one; it wasn’t wrong in the end. We were sent to cover a lot of miles this hitch and so we split into two separate work forces and then met back up towards the end of the hitch. Greg’s team went over to McConnell Mountain, while Ben and I went to clear the rest of the Warm Springs trail and the trail up to Wind Lakes. The team got back together just in time for a day full of some serious brushing. Then we enjoyed 4th of July together sharing stories and laughs. The last couple of days were spent up around Wind Lakes. After another day of clearing trail, our team hiked up to Grave Peak Lookout for some amazing 360 views. We then made sure to swim a little in the gorgeous lake that we named “Mirror Mirror on the Wall” just because we could. All in all I feel confident and proud about the work that we accomplished. Wishing you all fun filled adventures.

Susan Eisenbraun – University of Idaho

BIG CREEK & ST. MARY’S LOOKOUT

July 8th, 2015

It can be too easy sometimes to focus on work and almost forget where you are. Our first project of the hitch was to head up Big Creek. Big Creek Lake is the biggest in the Bitterroots. Our commute to work involved stopping to take our boots off to cross the dam’s spillway on the edge of the lake. Although this lengthened the time of our hike, the cool water flowing by my feet as the sun rose over the hill reminded me to enjoy our incredibly scenic location. We cut out logs so the packer could get to camp for our trips up Big Creek with the Sierra Club and American Hiking Society later this summer. Midway through our nine-mile hike I happened to look at the bottom of my boot. The sole was cracked almost in half!

For our second project, Claire led four interns (myself included) and 10 volunteers on a two-day project working on the trail at Saint Mary’s Peak. The first day we all hiked up to the 9,351 ft. summit, enjoyed the stunning views, and worked down the trail, cutting out logs, brushing the trail, and cleaning 187 drains,  all in two days. In a few weeks, the lookout volunteer can be packed in along a clear trail. This was an incredible way to spend a holiday weekend; we even had a barbeque for the volunteers at the home of our incredible hosts. One of the interns, Valentin filled up on all the good food by eating four veggie burgers. I guess he was hungry.

Hitch 2 was a great success, and I would recommend taking a look at the bottom of your boots once in a while.

Carly Stinson – University of MontanaP7040086

On to a Summer of Beauty and Hard Work…..

June 29th, 2015

Jim Renshaw Women interns

June 29, 2015

What a week! We have officially completed our intern training based at the beautiful Lochsa Historic Ranger Station, a setting fit for a mountain yoga retreat. We began our training as Wilderness Ranger Interns in Missoula, MT where we participated in a heated discussion about the meanings of the Wilderness Act. After this, we rounded ourselves up and shipped off down Highway 12 to our home for the week at the Lochsa Historic Station. Each morning we would rise, participate in a rejuvenating yoga session, and split up in to groups of two or three with our wilderness partners for station based trainings. The stations included tread-digging and brushing, stock packing, crosscut saw and axe use, noxious weed identification, campsite monitoring training, campsite preparation, and a colorful history of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness by the one and only Jim Renshaw.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I learned this week, not only about the job, but also about the delightful and committed folks that make the SBFC Foundation run, as well as the SBFC Trail Crew and my fellow Wilderness Ranger Interns. On our last evening at the Lochsa Historic Station we scrubbed ourselves up a bit, piled into the MCC vehicles, and trekked to River Dance – a scenic restaurant located on the shores of the Selway River. Here we had the opportunity to meet the board members of the SBFC Foundation, as well as indulge in one of the most savory meals of the summer. As the sun set I couldn’t help but to get a little sappy – what a lucky group of people we all are to get the opportunities to work and live in one of the most breath-taking places I have ever experienced. And all thanks to the people who love, and have loved, this area as much as we do. While I am sad to say ‘so long’ to the majority of these friends for the summer, I am energized and excited to apply all of my new skills in the field. Cheers to a summer of beauty and hard work!

Taryn Schreiner – Northern Arizona University

Overnight project sets the tone

June 24th, 2015

unnamed[4] unnamed[3] unnamed[5]June 23, 2015

On the morning of June 22, the Bitterroot National Forest Wilderness Intern crew hiked up the Sweeney Ridge Trail.  We hiked up in a quite literal sense: gaining 1,800 feet in the first 2 miles, and then 500 in the last half mile.  They were a long 7 miles, during which we silkied and crosscutted our way toward the campsite at Duffy Lake.  Grueling aside, we were rewarded with beautiful views of glacier-carved mountains, wildflowers, and alpine lakes.

This overnight project closed out the field portion of our first hitch, setting the tone for the rest of the season;  exhausting, challenging, rewarding, and indescribably beautiful.

Melinda Horne-University of Montana

FR Training continued…………….

June 2nd, 2015

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.  I am much more prepared for any medical issues that could arise while in the backcountry.  My first-aid kit might even expand to more than two band aids and ibuprofen.  On the second day of training we felt confident enough to perform a head-to-toe examination, our instructors, Ramon and Dara, humbled us by having us perform an examination blindfolded.

We grew as a team, forced to coordinate and designate levels of command to respond to a Multiple Casualty Incident which was acted out by volunteers.  We looked for little details, or changes in a patient’s vitals, while the bigger picture of evacuation priority and scene safety couldn’t be ignored either.  Our acting skills improved as we played patients that weren’t always very cooperative. We even got to talk to the crew of a medical helicopter that landed in the field. The final day, we heard an incredible rap on carbon monoxide poisoning performed by the trail crew.

After some intense days we roasted s’mores and worked on our ultimate frisbee skills too.

Carly Stinson-University of Montana