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.