I have had numerous wilderness experiences in my life. However, one of the more gratifying experiences was during my time working for the Youth Conservation Corps. In the summer of 2017, I worked at the Cabinet Ranger District. In the eight weeks I spent on the YCC crew, I did trail work in some very amazing places, hiking among beautiful mountain lakes and tall, snow covered peaks. But on one day, we got the opportunity to do trail work in the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
It was a cool July morning as the six of us on the crew walked through the grass behind the ranger station. We went out to the shed and picked up a few pulaskis, hand saws, and supplies and loaded them into our Yukon. As we headed out west on Highway 200, our crew leaders told us that we were going to work on the Star Peak trail. I had never heard of the trail before. The lukewarm mid morning sun was shining on the trailhead when we arrived. We talked for a bit with the Scotchman Peaks ranger, and I learned a lot about how wilderness areas work and why they are so important for our mountain ecosystems.
We got our packs on and started up the mountain. The trail was in good shape at the bottom, switchbacking up the mountain. After we walked for a bit, we came to a spot where the trail deteriorated a bit. We got out our pulaskis and got to work digging tread. As we worked our way up the trail, the stretch of freshly dug trail stretched down below us on the mountain. I enjoyed the smell of fresh earth combined with the trees and foliage around us. The air around us warmed quickly as the fir tree shadows got shorter. We hiked up the trail a little further as noon approached.
We stopped to eat lunch at a beautiful spot up on the mountain. I sat on a rock outcrop and talked with a friend, looking out on the Clark Fork. It shimmered in the sun, tranquilly resting on the calm summer day. After lunch, we dug some more trail, making our way through eroded parts of the trail. As we hiked out at the end of the day, I admired the work we did and hoped that many people would hike the trial and appreciate the well maintained parts of the trail.
Working for the YCC was definitely a very enriching experience for me. I had tons of other great experiences digging trail including doing trail work by St. Paul Lake and Rock Lake. We also did many other projects out in the woods, including building fence, working on lookouts on peaks, and cleaning up thinned timber areas. I always felt like I was accomplishing something positive with everything I did, and it gave me a greater respect for the outdoors and how important they are to all of us. Out of all of the wilderness experiences I have had, my most memorable were definitely in my time working with the YCC.
Ethan Brown is a Lincoln County graduating senior and a 2020 winner of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness essay competition from Thompson Falls High School. Congratulations Ethan! Ethan’s essay can also be found on the Your Wild Place podcast.