Montana Outdoors

May 2, 2008

Spring Creek

Who would not like to walk along this stream on a cool spring day? Today I was able to make it about two miles up the Spring Creek trail before the stretches of deep snow across it made it more tiring than it was worth. In a week or so maybe the snow will have melted enough to make it passable.

The first two miles proved to be a steep hike for as the stream cascades down, the trail beside it changes elevation 900 feet in the first two miles reaching 3,400 feet elevation at that point. The rest of the trail will also be steep though because after another five miles the top is at 6,900 feet. I really look forward to being able to hike the whole length!

At its mouth, the Spring Creek canyon enters the Weeksville Creek canyon a few miles upstream from the Clark Fork river, but Spring Creek itself goes underground about a mile short of Weeksville Creek and I presume simply serves to supply the underground water table. If so, it’s possible the sweet cold water in my well at home may be coming from this beautiful little stream.

As you might notice, I got a little carried away with photographing the creek, but it’s inspiring and comforting to me to be near an ice cold stream of pure water, the thing that makes life on this planet possible in the first place.

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

(Spring Creek originates in the TeePee-Spring Creek roadless area in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana, Lolo National Forest.)

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I’m afraid it has begun

In a rural area something that is missing is infrastructure, some would say by definition. Others might say that the infrastructure isn’t exactly missing, but those who live there often are the infrastructure. I was reminded of that yesterday when a call came over my pager inviting those of us who belong to the Rural Fire Department to go to the scene of a brush fire that was trying to get up into the timber. A house was near but not immediately threatened. In an urban area a fire call is answered by a professional team of firefighters: in a rural area it is answered by those of us who volunteer.

Despite the cold temperatures of a lingering winter and the fact that this area received far more than normal snowfall during the winter, the lower valley areas are already very dry and I’m afraid (I sure hope I’m wrong!) that the fire season started yesterday.

Eight miles from town as we approached mile marker 67, the dispatcher’s location for the fire, we could see a column of smoke coming from a shelf area a few hundred feet above the highway and off to the right a half mile or so. The voice of our chief who was in the lead truck came over the radio informing us where to turn off to get into that area.

Thanks to some good thinking and planning by the senior staff in our department, we have in our arsenal three wildland fire engines (brush trucks) which are light trucks which carry 300 gallons of water, a pump system which injects foam, creating a water-foam mix that is incredibly efficient and room for extra hose and all our other gear. The 4X4 F350 that I drove today had all it could do with all six wheels spinning to climb a steep trail up the mountainside to get into the right position for delivering our foam to the head of the fire.

After three and a half hours with crews working from our brush trucks, a crew from the state DNRC and a crew from the USFS the fire was out and being mopped up. We used over 1500 gallons of water and foam, filling each truck twice from our 3000 gallon water tender also near the scene, got filthy and smelly and had a wonderful time. Sometimes it’s fun to be a part of the infrastructure!

As far as I was concerned, the best reward came just as we were wrapping everything up when about 20 Bighorn sheep strolled out into a small clearing a hundred yards away and stood looking at us as if to say “thanks for protecting our home”.

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