Report From The Field by Dave Pacheco
This past week, I co-led a group of intrepid Wilderness Volunteers into the rugged Sawtooth Wilderness to help the agency managing the Sawtooth National Recreation Area with some much-needed trail maintenance. We’re proud to say this was WV’s 15th project giving something back in the Sawtooths since 1999!
Under the long-time supervision of Liese Dean, Wilderness Program Coordinator, and Deb Peters, Assistant Trails Supervisor and expert packer, we backpacked in five miles to a campsite in the Stanley Creek area of the wilderness and immediately got familiar with our home for the week. Our first impressions were how incredibly clean the water flowed through this magnificent granite-based, Lodgepole pine forest — some of the clearest water we had ever seen. And we couldn’t help but be starkly reminded that the entire location, camp and work sites, were in a burned area from a 2007 fire.
For the next five days we made daily forays of up to eight miles round trip performing an assortment of
trail tasks. Volunteers took turns sawing out 55 downed trees across trails with a six-foot cross-cut saw, we lopped and brushed back overgrown vegetation from 5 miles of trail, and mostly we cleaned out debris and rocks from 244 water bars over that same distance. The water bar work was particularly important because of the unusual level of erosion from the past fire, and they are necessary to divert the water from gouging through trails.
Over the course of the week, we were thrilled with late night visits through camp by Mule deer and elk, and on the smaller scale we were entertained by pika, Clark’s nutcracker, bluebird, and some very colorful Western tanagers. Thankfully, Thursday’s storms that touched off wildfires across Idaho were well away from the immediate area, but they did make for some incredible evening red skies. The Sawtooth NRA is a place of many streams, deep glacial lakes, craggy peaks, and it’s a place many of us will return to as we constantly explore wild America. If you’re looking for a spectacular wilderness adventure, join us next year for another week in the Sawtooths!