Recently, we engaged in an action-packed tour of the Flathead Valley which found us working with youth and refining our technical skills on the trail and on the road.

On Monday, May 20, we returned to a project which we had visited a few weeks prior in Columbia Falls. Earlier in the training period, we had received technical training on trail construction and proper usage of trail tools, including Pulaskis, pick mattocks, and McLeods, at the 3rd Avenue E Connector trail. This particular trail provides convenient access for inhabitants of nearby residential neighborhoods to River’s Edge Park along the banks of the Flathead River. However, we didn’t have time to complete the project on our first day of work.

Our goal when we returned that Monday was to finish the work we had started: redefining the tread after a year of erosion and repairing damage done to the trail by a fallen tree. One of our biggest challenges was fighting the sloughing hillside, which contained large amounts of loose river rock. On the trail, we were able to apply lessons learned during our extended hitch in the Cabinet Mountains. Over the course of the day, we gained on the loose rock and vegetation and left the trail ready for another season of good use.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the 21st and 22nd of May, took us to Whitefish, where we had the opportunity to work with Taylor Wilmot, the Facilities and Grounds Coordinator for the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (CSE) on the grounds of Whitefish High School. We received an excellent tour of the center before the start of the workday. The CSE features a self-sustaining greenhouse and associated classroom space contained in a net-zero energy facility. Alongside the greenhouse are raised outdoor beds and a garden for growing in the warmer months. We learned about everything from aeroponics and rainwater collection cisterns to wormcastings and soil remediation of herbicide-contaminated soil.

During the two-day stint at the CSE, we teamed with the capable staff and students from the Whitefish High and Junior High Schools to complete a broad array of tasks. We cleared and weeded the indoor and outdoor beds and applied them with compost and manure. Additionally, we transplanted plants, prepared the garden for potato planting, and spread leaf mulch on an adjacent area destined to become a wetland.

Thursday and Friday brought us back to Kalispell, where we spent many hours mastering the art of backing up and parking a trailer. We also learned more about the logistics and responsibilities of being a youth expedition leader in the great outdoors.  On Friday afternoon, we began our preparations for our next project, a backcountry hitch into the Great Bear Wilderness.

It was a fun, busy week which exposed us more to working with youth and doing conservation work in an urban setting. Throughout the week, we gained confidence in our ability to work both independently and as a cohesive unit. We ended on a high note and ready for our next adventure.



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