Montana Outdoors

July 26, 2008

Signs of the times

Filed under: Montana, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — Tags: , — montucky @ 6:00 pm

This is a USFS trail sign beside USFS road 7698 (The High Ridge Road), part of which runs along the northern edge of the Patrick’s Knob roadless area. It was put up earlier this summer to replace one that was damaged even worse than this. This was probably done by a lousy shot with a 9mm pistol.

Road sign

This sign beside USFS road 7592 marks the start of the CC Divide Trail which is a pack trail that runs for many miles along the divide. Those are small caliber, probably .22, bullet holes in it. 7592 is the road that leads to the Patrick’s Knob Fire Lookout.

Road sign

For those who would like to find the trail to the top of Baldy Mountain in the Baldy Mountain roadless area, this USFS sign was placed at the junction of FS road 1025 and FS road 886 to help you. It should display “Road 886” and “Trail No 340” with an arrow. You would take that road for 3 miles to the trailhead. A shotgun was the vandal’s choice to destroy this sign.

Road sign


At the intersection of three trails inside the TeePee – Spring Creek roadless area are these signs. It is 6.6 miles, 7 miles, or 3 miles (depending on which trail you take) to the nearest road. These signs are at least 50 years old, more likely 70, and their condition is obvious.

Trail sign

If you were to follow the trail marked by the sign in the second photo for 4 1/2 miles west into the Patrick’s Knob roadless area, you would see this sign, also in excellent condition despite having been there for half a century. As it shows, the nearest road is 4 1/2 miles away.

Trail sign

Quite close to the High Ridge Road although not visible from it, this sign has aged gracefully also for over 50 years while showing the traveler the path of trail 205 through the Patrick’s Knob roadless area.

Trail sign

Sometimes signs display more than one message at a time.


  1. It is sad to see the vandalism. It reflects selfishness and a complete lack of respect for everything and everyone.

    The old wooden signs are really nice…classy and simple. I like seeing them here.


    Comment by Tabbie — July 26, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

  2. There is something wonderfully profound about this ‘destruction’. And something quite ironical, too; using social technological tools/weapons to remove/destroy social labels on nature…hmmm…


    Comment by Sumedh — July 27, 2008 @ 2:15 am

  3. Indeed, Sumedh, it’s a psychosocial intrigue.


    Comment by Tabbie — July 27, 2008 @ 7:00 am

  4. Why do people do such stupid things. It really amazes me how far human capability for destruction goes.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — July 27, 2008 @ 7:12 am

  5. Tabbie,

    I think it’s especially significant that the vandalism (and the incidences of leaving trash lying around as well) is confined to the areas adjacent to roads or motorized trails. A hundred feet away from the roads the trash stops and it’s extremely rare to see any kind of willful destruction.


    Comment by montucky — July 27, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  6. Sumedh,

    The destruction of the “labels” is limited to the areas right next to motorized access. The psychology involved would be interesting to study, but the destruction is willful (there’s nothing accidental about it) and criminal (willful destruction of government property is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and there is a potential also for jail time, and on many of the newer signs that warning is printed right on the sign).


    Comment by montucky — July 27, 2008 @ 9:35 am

  7. Scienceguy,
    Destruction of this nature amazes me too. Personally I think it’s a subconscious protest of some kind. It’s certainly a cowardly thing because it’s done secretly, and no one makes a claim for doing it or points to it as a real protest about anything.

    I’ve heard folks say that it’s just kids using the signs for target practice, but it’s certainly more than that. Anyone who creates willful destruction has issues that extend far past the urge to have “fun”.


    Comment by montucky — July 27, 2008 @ 9:40 am

  8. Tabbie,
    I really love those old wooden signs too. The lettering on them was burned into the wood originally. It’s significant that they have withstood damage from the natural elements for so long and yet still serve their purpose very well, yet the sign in the first photo is only about a month old.

    The new version of Forest Service signs, sadly, are printed and laminated: I’m sure that’s cheaper and quicker than the old method of production. I’ll bet it doesn’t last any longer though.

    There was an intermediate method of making them that involved routing the letters into the wood and then painting the sign using two colors. I have enjoyed those for many years and am sad to see them discontinued. My wife was able to find and acquire a set of the original government specifications for those signs and we followed them to create a sign for our house address. It looks just like the signs I loved so much and brings back some great memories each time I look at it.


    Comment by montucky — July 27, 2008 @ 9:43 am

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