Voices in the Wilderness – Turns East

I first came to Idaho in 1975 from Marquette, MI and worked as a seasonal GS-3 trail crew leader with Mike Blendin from Columbia, MO. Bill Wells was our supervisor. We were given 10-day assignments to clear circular route trails primarily for outfitters and elk hunters. The trails, except for the trail on the ridge above Fish Creek on the MT- ID border, usually followed hillsides above creeks and streams.

Mike and I were furnished with frame backpacks, a grommeted tarp for shelter, sleeping bags, a small sterno cook stove, canteens, mess kits, and Mountain House freeze dried foods. Our water was taken from streams. We also had a map, a 2-way FM radio for emergency purposes (which we never used), a bow saw, brush clippers, and Pulaskis. We usually worked as we walked the trails while carrying all of our gear. We occasionally supplemented our evening meals with a couple brook or cutthroat trout. On one trip our supervisor, Bill Wells, met us on horseback with a pack horse at a smoke chaser log cabin where Bill gave us access for the night. He brought steaks.

After each of our 10-day work trips we joined up with two other 2-person trail crews to spend most of our 4 days off together. Three-hour drives each way to the 4 Aces Bar in Superior, MT and a camping trip to the Jewel Basin hiking area where we camped out at the summit of Mt. Aeneas and watched the Big Fork 4th of July fireworks and other fireworks displays across Flathead Lake. That trip also included a drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. At one point we stopped east of the Visitor’s Center and watched a golden eagle soar from far below our valley road shoulder location to over and behind the peak behind us.

I have a memory from our last trail clearing trip in late August 1975. We found an historic location sign uphill from the site where we set up camp at a vacant outfitter camp. We discovered a sign uphill and 50 yards away from where we were camping near which happened to be near the Lewis & Clark site called ‘Sinque Hole’.

Indian Grave Meadow contains several small ‘sinque holes’ and is located between the traditional ‘Sinque Hole’ and the Smoking Place. The location has long served as a camping area for Indians, trappers, road builders, and hunters. Some trail researchers also believe this is where the expedition camped on the night of 17 September 1805.

We settled under our tarp early that evening anxiously expecting a rendezvous for our only helicopter flight back to the Kelly Creek seasonal work station the next morning. At dusk, a large bull elk sauntered into the outfitters’ campsite clearing (apparently a salt lick), walked calmly to our lean-to tarp and sniffed the edges of our ground cloths (near our heads) while we lay motionless in our sleeping bags, then continued out of the camp. The flight home with a recent Vietnam War Army veteran helicopter pilot was truly exhilarating! I believe he was in a hurry to get back because flights were expensive and he had difficulty locating us. No GPS back then.

In July 2017 & August 2018 I joined Friends of the Clearwater group weekend camping trips at the Kelly Creek campground. Activities included touring various sites including Cayuse Creek, swimming upstream in Kelly Creek. The District Ranger at Kelly Creek joined us for an evening meal and campfire discussion at the 2017 campout. We enjoyed the exchange of comments and information AND the watermelon he brought for the potluck.

Turns East a FERS retiree (June 2013) from 9 ½ years at U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Department of Homeland Security (WA) and 3 years with U.S.D.A. – Forest Service (Clearwater N.F. – ID, Colville N.F. – WA and Manistee N.F. – MI). He has a B.S. in park management & recreation planning from NMU in Marquette, MI – 1977, and an M.P.A. in city management / political science from MSU in Lansing, MI – 1985.

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About The Author:

Rose wears many hats within FSPW as well as the greater Sandpoint community. You can find her working behind the scenes for the Friends, coaching kids mountain biking and nordic skiing, or out on the trail enjoying nature.

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