By Caleb Church
For those of you who don’t know me or who haven’t met me yet, I’m interning for FSPW. I work for Patagonia out of the Chicago Mag Mile store and was a granted a sabbatical to volunteer for an environmental non-profit of my choice for a month. It’s a good break from the day-to-day routine of running a retail operation and an even better opportunity to some “boots on the ground” work for the environment, which is at the core of Patagonia’s values. I enjoy this area of the country and I am passionate about protecting wild places, and that’s what helped me find FSPW. I’m very excited to be here and hope to make a positive impact with the time I’m given.
So in my first 8 days, I’ve really gotten a full immersion into the Scotchmans and it has been a drastic change of pace from the big city life in Chicago. On my first day I climbed Scotchman Peak with Joe Zimmerman, our US Forest Service intern. That was a shock to the system as we climbed the 4,000 feet elevation gain to the summit in cloudy, rainy and even snowy conditions. We were able to scout out the trail, makes notes on what maintenance needed to be done and give a good report on the trail conditions to perspective hikers. It was a good first day.
I spent the next few days working at the offices, both in Sandpoint and Libby, getting to really understand FSPW and learning the operation. Phil Hough and Sandy Compton have helped me along and given me several jobs centered on advocacy and outreach as well as helping them out with basic daily operations. The fun stuff however is getting to actually spend time in the Scotchmans on the group hikes and trail work projects.
My first day off, Thursday, I spent a day out in the back country, climbing the Star Peak trail and then heading down the backside along Pilick Ridge… I actually got lost in a forested snow bowl, and ended up having to bushwhack my way down to highway 56 along Smokey Creek. Luckily I had a lab-mix (and local mountaineering legend) Laddie as a companion and he helped lead me down the mountain. It was a great adventure for a day off.
I followed that up with group hikes up to Spar Peak on Saturday and another back up to Star Peak on Sunday. The Spar Peak hike was a little bit tougher as there was much snow and undergrowth to deal with, but the views were the best so far. Star Peak round 2 went a little bit better than Thursday and was more enjoyable in a relaxing sort of way. On both hikes I met with some amazing people and got to speak to them a lot about the Scotchmans and the work we’re doing. The Sanders County picnic, Sunday afternoon, was a great way to cap it all off.
Its been a great first week and I’m looking forward to what’s in store for the next three weeks.