Hiking into the South Fork Trail Hiking into the South Fork Trail <p>Breakfast Sunrise at Boulder Basin</p>

The Wild, Wild West!

  • August 23, 2015
  • Posted by Jessica Lee Richardson

Hitch One: South Fork Trail - First back country hitch of the season and one of three in the Shoshone National Forest.
After meeting Ryan (Sponsor and Former MCC Member), who was going to be staying with us during the duration of time, we headed out to the South Fork Workstation which turned out to be a cabin with all the accommodations. It was certainly a quaint way to begin a back country hitch.
We hiked roughly 5 miles into the the South Fork Trail the next day only to arrive at our mosquito infested campsite. We honestly didn’t have much to complain about though considering we got everything packed in including our backpacks. Our camping lifestyle is what we in turn dubbed laid-back country.
Over the course of the hitch, we hiked 2-3 miles into the work site everyday which was grueling for some if not all of us over time. But memorable if not to say the least with rain practically every day and once you crossed a river by cove, there’s not much to do but cross it again even though it has risen by a vast amount. The same went for the waterfall/creek that went from a nice, constant flow into a whirling vortex of chocolate milk. And with us just standing there admiring its force, sometimes, just like in life, you’ve got to get your feet wet…so we did. You could say that we weren’t in the best of moods after that but after a nice fire to sit by, courtesy of Ryan, we were in better spirits.

The hitch went off without a hitch, pun intended, for the majority of the 9 days until the last day of work before packing out the next day. It started off with splitting into two groups with myself, Lucas, Sophie, and Ryan heading to the upper trail to try and clear the trail of scree that was at a constant downfall due to bad weather and natural shifting. It was rocky to say the least which involved a lot of lifting and moving. And in the process of moving a rock up the trail via flipping, Sophie and Lucas’ progress came to a stand still when Sophie’s right hand became pinned between the rock and tread. After pulling her hand out in haste, it was clear that damage had been done. But with Lucas’ calming ability of telling stories to keep her mind off the pain, Ryan’s EMT certification and my assisting in first aide, Sophie was in good hands. After relaying the information back to the other group, Will and Sophie decided that an evacuation was needed. So, they proceeded to hike out while the rest of the crew stayed behind with Ryan. The absence of the leaders was certainly felt at camp later that night but it also allowed us to really come together and get what needed to be done. This included the packing of personal and group gear the following day before Will’s arrival back at camp to assist in packing out. In his words, he was impressed by our ability to get things done in a timely manner. And we were happy that Sophie was working on her way to recovering for future hitches.

Hitch Two: Venus Creek Trail
Seeing as we were down a leader considering the injury from the previous hitch, staff member, Preston, tagged along to fill in. So after meeting up with Ryan for the second time, we headed out to the workstation near Venus Creek. This one wasn’t quite as elaborate and small to the point where all of us ended up sleeping in our tents instead. The following day we prepped for getting packed in and then headed out on an 8.76 mile hike to our campsite which turned out to be the Venus Basin National Forest Service workstation/cabin. Prior to our arrival, the journey was interesting to say the least. At one point we split into two groups. One group consisted of Will and Lucas who went ahead of us to scope out the lay of the land and check out the river crossings we were to come across. The rest of us stayed behind to work on part of the trail that had deteriorated due to rainfall. When our time came, we headed off and boy, were there river crossings galore. None were too difficult to say the least. On the other hand, crossing a beaver pond was a whole other story with freezing water that came up to your knees or higher and water foliage to wade through to match. All was going well until I attempted to cross a deeper section with my river crossing shoes, a.k.a. Crocs, and managed to get stuck. Not for the life of me, I could not get free so I had to take my foot out and reach into the murky water with my hand to save my none so attractive shoe, not that it would have been much of a loss to lose such an ugly piece of footwear. The greater downfall was the fact that I knew that it would be almost impossible to cross the pond with my choice of shoes. So, I got offered a piggy back ride by crew member, Mike, who not only had to give me one but Heather as well considering her and I were sharing shoes because she forgot hers. That was not a pleasant experience but it was certainly a nice gesture on his part. The cabin was nice enough minus the mouse problem and with six beds, it left plenty of room to feel at home even though only three of us actually decided to sleep in the cabin and the rest in tents. And it even included an outhouse complete with quotes and stories that went all the way back to the 60’s. We, of course, had to make our mark in it as well. As for work, it was fairly cut and dry with switchbacks that were in need of maintenance and curbing that needed to be either fixed or replaced. There were also opportunities to hike several miles in a day for a cut-&-run. Mike and Ryan were the ones who actually made it to the end of the trail with a 19 mile hike round-trip. Bravo to them! And, once again, the hitch was going well until Will and Heather got sick. It happened suddenly and without warning. Will was the worst off and had to be taken out by horse the following day, when we were getting packed out. Props had to be given to Heather though who hiked out with the rest of us even when she wasn’t feeling well. After we got back to the first workstation, Will got taken to the hospital so it was decided to that we were all going to head back to Cody where we slept in the warehouse. I have to say that walking to Wendy’s for dinner and then sleeping on a saddle blanket next to some tack gave me the best sleep I’ve had all week. Or maybe it was simply being back in society on a Monday because we definitely weren’t used to that. It was an interesting way to end the hitch to say the least.

Hitch Three: Boulder Basin Trail - Last hitch in the Shoshone National Forest and a bittersweet farewell.
There were no surprises when it became known that we weren’t going to have the same crew this hitch either. Heather was out due to an illness and crew leader, Will, left three days in to go on vacation. We had a youth crew leader tag along, Ty, who also left with Will to head back out to his youth crew. So, what started off as a somewhat normal crew, we spent the night at the same cabin that we did on the first hitch and headed out the following day. This hitch seemed a lot more involved with the forest service seeing as we were dealing with parts of the Boulder Basin Trail that were affected by mudslides due to heavy rainfall. They thought it best that in order for us to begin work on removing the mud and debris that it would be easier by simply blowing up the mud first. So, as we were hiking up the multiple switchbacks, we had to stop multiple times while the explosives were set off. Prior to this hike, we once again, split into two groups. One group (Sophie, Mike, Ty, and Ryan) headed up the trail to clear off rocks and fix parts of the trail that needed a few adjustments. The other group (Will, Lucas, and myself) stayed behind to help load up the mules to get packed in. We assumed that since we were only going to be 4 miles up 22 switchbacks that this was going to be a somewhat easy hike in with no problems. It turns out, we were wrong. After my group reached the last gate where we stopped to wait for a set of explosives to go off, we continued on ahead until Harley and the mules caught up were we let them on ahead of us. As we headed up a few switchbacks, we came across a string of three mules facing us on the trail with a couple of mules struggling to stay on the tread. There was also, unfortunately, a mule who happened to fall completely off the trail and was laying in between an upright tree and a log. It was certainly a stressful situation while Harley was tending to the injured mules and we were attempting to keep the other mules calm. Once we got everything under control and the most injured mule got evacuated out, we continued on our way up to meet up with the rest of the crew. Once we got settled in, it turns out that we were all pretty big fans of our campsite with a wonderful view every morning during breakfast and a just as pleasant view before heading off to bed. The hike to our work site was also a pleasant experience considering it was roughly only 100 yards from the campsite. Our work consisted as such, we flattened out the muddy tread to the best of our abilities and then started the process of creating a turnpike which turned out to be very rewarding work. There is nothing like seeing an almost unusable part of the trail turned into something magnificent within a matter of days. Moving rocks, gravel, logs, and dirt throughout the week gave way to pure satisfaction at seeing what a crew can achieve. Teamwork can go a long way. All in all, the time spent in the Shoshone National Forest and with our sponsor, Ryan, will be a time that we’ll never forget. Through hard work and perseverance anything can be conquered and a bittersweet farewell in the end can only make this journey so much more enchanting.

Side Note: The injured mule survived her injuries and is well on her way to recovering.


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