Extreme Pleinair prehike yeilds wolf tracks and waterfalls.

On Wednesday, June 23, Thompson Falls artist Jared Shear and FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton hiked into Ross Creek from the Cedars  on a scouting mission for the upcoming Extreme Plenair event planned for July 9 through 13. Over the next 14 hours, they hiked 17 miles through the heart of the Scotchmans, garnering some extraordinary photos in the process. (The link takes you to a Scotchman Peaks Facebook album illustrating the day)

The day began magically, when, about a mile from the parking lot, Compton began to hear a distinctive sound over the white noise of Ross Creek, which was tumbling by nearby. He got Shear’s attention, and after a moment, Shear exclaimed, “Wolves!”

Pointing to two sets of wolf tracks in the main fork of Ross Creek
Pointing to two sets of wolf tracks in the main fork of Ross Creek

Compton concurred, and a few hundred yards further along the trail, their opinions were confirmed when they found tracks in the trail of the animals they had heard howling. There were two sets of tracks. One appeared to be made by a mature female and the other by an adolescent animal.

“It was a stellar instant,” Compton said, “definitely a hair-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment.”

Compton and Shear encountered more tracks and scat as they ascended the main fork of Ross Creek. They then continued into the upper Ross Creek basin, where the wilderness was in full melt. They waded many seasonal streams and found waterfalls galore.

“It’s melting fast up there,” Compton said, “and the snow was sliding off the shelves in the big cirques along the east side of the Crags. It sounded like jets going over.”

After scouting out a potential camp in upper Ross Creek, Shear and Compton climbed over 24-Hour Pass, dopped into the East Fork of Blue Creek, and then traversed back into the South Fork of Ross Creek, making a long day of it.

Shear, along with Moscow artist Aaron Johnson, be repeat contributors to this year’s Extreme Pleinair. Shear and Johnson also participated in last year’s inaugural event. Their work, as well as art from the “Paint the Scotchmans Pleinair” scheduled for September 24, 25 and 26, will be on display at the Outskirts Gallery in Hope.

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About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at bluecreekpress.com.

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (www.scotchmanpeaks.org/trails), which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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