The Ranger Rag | SBFC Blog

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

Wilderness we call “The Frank

August 20th, 2015

Alright, this is starting to get ridiculous… For the second time this week the neighbors are causing a ruckus. Mountain goats are launching rock avalanches down the mountain towards our tents! An unexpected Wilderness experience for sure!

The USFS Middle Fork Wilderness team, including myself, took on some of the River of No Return’s most pristine country; from crystal clear alpine lakes, sharp narrow ridges, to towering summits. The USFS/SBFC team managed to summit Martin Mountain six times and Sleeping Deer Peak once. We logged out over twelve miles of trail, and visited four alpine lakes. Over 12 miles of trail was cleared from Sleeping Deer Lookout through the Cache Lakes Basin past Martin Mountain to the junction of Grouse Creek Trail #085 and Macarte Ridge Trail #4097.

Conversely, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness fought back against the team by reclaiming the Grouse Creek Trail. The term “Ghost Trail” was best used to describe Grouse Creek. It was not enough to be equipped with GPS technology and detailed maps, the team completely lost the trail at the Macarte Ridge junction. There was no sign of tread or cut logs. Grouse Creek Trail was left as it was – wherever that might be. GPS or map is the only means to navigate in this territory.

The USFS and SBFC teams worked together to uphold the undeniably high level of wilderness character in the Frank Church. The teams were a force to be reckoned with on the trail and also on the alpine lakes. The elite anglers in the crew indulged upon the bountiful and aggressive cutthroat for their evening ritual.

Come next Wednesday the Salmon-Challis SBFC Interns and Middle Fork USFS team will reassemble for one final hitch, those logs across the trail have another thing coming.

Tyler Lee – Western State Colorado UniversityLookout Mtn Photo

End of Season Wrap up

August 20th, 2015

Jake Henry Photo Jake Henry Group photo

It is the final week of my SBFC Internship. Many things have happened this season, some good, some bad, and (definitely) some painful. The other interns and myself have been through a lot together. We have worked on miles of trails and seen some of the most beautiful places in the country. Our bodies have been stained with sweat, blood, and (after our most recent hitch) tears.

This summer has tested me mentally as well as physically. Being covered in mosquitos, a little loopy from dehydration, and experiencing an abundance of blisters and sores in all parts of my body were just a few of the “tests”.  Throw all of those things on top of being submitted to upwards of 14-hour workdays, and it makes for a fun time. My experience sounds pretty awesome, huh?

Looking back on everything that happened this season, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Each and every experience has made me a much stronger person, helped me to realize and be grateful for the things that I have, and opened the door to lasting friendships. This has really been the summer of a lifetime and I will remember it for as long as I live. I want to thank all of the SBFC staff, the board members, the generous donors, and my fellow interns for allowing me to have a great season.

Jake Henry – Eastern Kentucky University

Here is the link to my video: 


We “killed it” at Colt Killed Creek!

August 20th, 2015

Colt Killed 2 cnznf ssmithphotoThis has been one exciting hitch. Although it was shorter than all the rest it was filled with plenty of good times. This hitch it was all four of the Nez Perce-Clearwater interns working together to get five campsites inventoried and all of trail 71 cleared in four days. Colt Killed creek cnznf ssmithphoto

There were two campsites off at different lakes that we had to bushwhack for a good mile and a half to get to. Taryn and Jake inventoried the campsite at Garnet Lake while Nolan and I found the campsite at Parachute Lake. This whole hitch was quite the adventure and I’m glad I got to spend it with all of the interns in my area.

Susan Eisenbraun – University of Idaho


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.



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.


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.


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.

Adam Hoge – University of Montana


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


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