Montana Outdoors

September 9, 2008

Clear Creek 3

Yesterday we cleared the final part of the Clear Creek trail, at least as far as we will go this year. At the top we reached Forest Service Road 4211, which is the remains of a very old mining road, at a point a couple of miles from the gate that has closed it to motor vehicle travel for many years now. The high ridges that run for miles above the old road provide fabulous elk country and I’m already planning to try a hunt there myself when the season opens.

The morning began with a quite pleasant hike up the two miles of trail that we cleared last week. That turned out to be the “flat” part of the trail! The rest was up hill for a mile and a half to two miles along a very steep sidehill with a lot of small trees down on the trail, probably from the weight of the heavy snow that fell there last winter and stayed until nearly mid summer. Just before we reached the opening in the forest caused by the old road at the top, I decided that I had not done that much work in many years, since late in the summer of 1908, to be exact.

The hike back to the waiting truck was much easier and much more pleasant, since it was nearly all down hill, and it was somewhere along that part of the hike that I began to think I might actually survive the trip. I also began to think that there are probably several million people across this country who simply would not believe that the kind of activity we had just completed is still going on in today’s America. The day’s total was nearly 8 miles of hiking involving a vertical climb of about 2,000 feet, wading across the creek a dozen times and leaving (in my case) a gallon or so of perspiration on the trail.

In the canyon bottom, the burned out remains of this huge cedar provide evidence that a wild fire had swept through the canyon perhaps a hundred years ago. (It’s a good three feet across its middle.)

Remains of a fire-hollowed cedar.

With a little effort, USFS Road 4211 at the top could still be used for fire or other emergency access into the high country as well as a viable route for hikers, hunters and back country horsemen. The blue of the sky gives testimony to the pureness of the air in this part of the country.

USFS road 4211

Ironically, with a half dozen or so stream crossings on the trail, this particular crossing was a dry one because of this old foot bridge over the stream. Someone, probably 80 years or so ago, sawed a huge tree lengthwise right down its middle to make it and it’s still solid, though covered with moss.

Footbridge on trail 6627

At the end of the long, long day, the unmistakable Forest Service green of our trusty steed was a very welcome sight!

Transportation, USFS style


  1. whew! lots of work! you are right, I bet there are lots of people who don’t know this kind of work goes on. that cedar is a very cool picture. and I love the one of the foot bridge. so do all the other forest service guys give you funny looks when you take pictures?


    Comment by silken — September 9, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  2. One of the kind of sad things is that at the moment I’m exactly half of the trail crew. They only staff for two people these days in this district, and then only through September. I’m kind of replacing the one who started back to college this fall. If the fire season isn’t too bad, they get help from the fire crews but otherwise it’s pretty slim. That’s another reason I thought it would be good to volunteer now. Tomorrow we’ll start in another area.


    Comment by montucky — September 9, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  3. Wow, you’ve done a lot of great work!! I love that the super simple old bridge is still sturdy and fine. That’s awesome.

    Good luck tomorrow!


    Comment by Sara — September 9, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  4. I’ve seen a number of old foot bridges like that. They have a certain romance about them and seem to last forever. They’re also very welcome when you want to stay dry crossing the stream, especially in the spring when the water is high. I wonder if the persons who made them ever knew how long they have lasted and how much they have been appreciated.


    Comment by montucky — September 9, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  5. Sounds like you will be developing some muscles you did not know you had before now. Great job! I love the blue skies and the pure air you are so fortunate to enjoy.


    Comment by Tabbie — September 9, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

  6. Yes. It’s kind of too bad that I got started this late though, but I still enjoy hiking alone much more because I can take my time and not accomplish total exhaustion. The free rides are nice though and I’m learning a whole lot about the trail networks as we go. Also getting insight into the way the Forest Service works in this area. Problem is though, I’m almost 50 years older than the young guy I replaced when he went back to school.


    Comment by montucky — September 10, 2008 @ 6:16 am

  7. You must be in really great shape Terry !!!

    Nice shots as well !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — September 10, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

  8. I’m starting to get into good shape, Bernie. The trail clearing only runs through September though, so there isn’t much time left. It’s hard work, but there just isn’t a more beautiful place to do it and my partner (boss) is simply incredible and makes it all thoroughly enjoyable.


    Comment by montucky — September 10, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  9. So, are you still and sore when you wake up in the morning after all this work?



    Comment by knightofswords — September 11, 2008 @ 8:32 am

  10. Surprisingly, not, I suppose either because I’m used to doing a lot of hiking or maybe because after all these years my body has just given up on protesting. The pace and exertion level of clearing trails is much greater than just the hiking I’ve been doing though, and I have gotten tired during the days. Now though, after three days of it I seem to be getting into better shape for it and could notice the difference during yesterday’s jaunt.


    Comment by montucky — September 11, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  11. What a beautiful area. I’m glad you guys allowed access to it for hikers.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — September 11, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

  12. As someone who hikes a lot myself, I know how pleasant it is to be on a clear trail. Now I’ve noticed the huge difference between clearing on the way up and simply walking on the way down: now it has become even more pleasant!


    Comment by montucky — September 11, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

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