The crew enjoys the beauty of Glacier National Park during a weekend hike!   The crew enjoys the beauty of Glacier National Park during a weekend hike! <p>Celebrating the 4th of July, MCC style.</p>

A Month In The Wild

  • July 11, 2019
  • Posted by Isaac Jensen, Winter Sedler, Isaac Stedman, Elizabeth Spradlin

The first session of MCC’s High School Youth Expedition program has come to a conclusion, and we asked our crew members to reflect on four amazing and soggy weeks of wilderness, trail building, card games and a whirlwind tour of Northwest Montana.
 
Elizabeth Spradlin tells the story of our first hitch, working for the City of Whitefish and Stillwater State Forest.  When the crew wasn’t working, we stayed at Upper Stillwater Lake in Flathead National Forest:
When we were in Whitefish there were three different projects we were working on.  The first project was taking out an old fence and weeding near the bike path at Kay Beller Park and the second one was landscaping an area where people can drop off kayaks, paddleboards, canoes etc to improve access to the beach area of Whitefish Lake. The first day at Kay Beller Park we mainly spent the whole day taking apart the fence which had enclosed the bike path. The next two days were spent landscaping at Whitefish City Beach, digging holes, planting trees and shrubs, weeding, mulching, spreading gravel, and putting down garden fabric. The second to last day in Whitefish, we were back at Kay Beller Park, it was slow but we got a lot of weeding done and cleared an overgrown hillside. The last day we were in the Stillwater State Forest constructing a timber framed informational kiosk.

Our next hitch took us west out of the Flathead Valley to the Cabinet Mountains in Kootenai National Forest.  Over the course of 5 rainy days, we worked to improve over half a mile of trail in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, digging tread to improve footing and drainage, clearing corridor to improve visibility, and building switchbacks and climbing turns.  Winter Sedler gives us a window into a day in the life of the crew in the Cabinets:
Rain spills off my hard hat and drips down the back of my neck.  I slog step by step up the Devils Club Trail; my breath coming rapidly and my legs burning.  My whole body is unpleasantly damp, if not from the rain then from sweat.  We reach our destination sometime around ten in the morning and set to work with grim determination.  We stop occasionally to wring out our gloves and warm our soaked hands.  By the time we cache our tools in the afternoon and prepare to hike back down to camp, my body aches and I yearn for the dry shelter of my tent.  I look back at the fresh tread clinging to the side of Dad Peak.  Pride and a sense of accomplishment wash over me.  It was a long day, but it was worth it.

The final two weeks of our expeditions found the crew encamped in a Forest Service paddock outside of Hungry Horse, spending the days working to bring a downhill mountain biking up to Forest Service standards so that it could be recommissioned, and the evenings playing cards, hunting gophers, and feeding carrots to the friendly neighborhood horses and mules.  Isaac Stedman describes the scene in camp on the 4th of July, our last evening together before the end of the program, which featured a campfire, fireworks, and cowboy camping under the stars:
It was 4:00 pm and we had just gotten done with working on the trail in Hungry Horse.  We drove back to camp and I stepped out of the car and went bounding through the field where I saw a gopher.  It squeaked at me and I chased it back to its hole and waited, until I got the idea to fill in its hole and walked off.  An hour later, it was time for dinner and a few fireworks were just getting started off in the distance, but anyway the food was great.  We started a fire and while the rest of the crew started making s’mores, I walked off and went to see our neighbors who were lighting off some fireworks.  It was the guy we knew who had thanked us for our service and let us use the cabin by his house when it was raining. Isaac J. and I talked with him for a while and one thing that got my attention was he said that on Hwy 2 in Hungry Horse they light the fireworks at a diagonal over the highway.  We walked back to the fire and we had missed the chocolate hour but I found a square still in its wrapper.  A few hours later, best guess around 9:00pm, we all decided to sleep outside under the stars. We told stories and watched fireworks till midnight. I woke up later in the night kinda scared because one scary story was about a dog’s wet tongue but ‘IRL’ it was rain. We all woke up to the rain, except for one of us, but I fell back asleep after ducking into my sleeping bag so not to get wet.

After four weeks of exploring and infrequent showers, the crew was excited to see their families, change into dry clothes, and eat a meal that didn’t include sitting on the ground with a little extra dirt for trail spice.  But they will never forget the work they did, the beautiful sights they saw, the challenges they overcame, and they will never be able to walk on a trail without looking at the corridor, tread, and drainage features ever again.


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