Working with the Montana Conservation Corps

Josh single bucking up Mill Creek. Single bucking means there’s only one person on a two person saw. We do this when someone can’t physically be on the other side or if it’s dangerous for them to be there.

Pretty mountains on the hike up to Mill Creek Lake.

Mark carrying a crosscut.

Lexie cutting up Mill Creek.

Caitlin watches as a helicopter makes a lumber drop at the Blodgett Canyon bridge. Over the summer we’ll be replacing the old bridge with a stronger, engineered one.

My crew leader Julie hiking down from Big Creek Lake.

Dylan single bucking up Big Creek.

Charles hiking down from Big Creek Lake.

Lexie cutting on Mill Creek.

Charles on Mill Creek.

Mark and Josh cutting.

Since May I’ve been on a trail crew with the Montana Conservation Corps. Here’s what that means. We’re the sorry suckers that hike into the wilderness and clear trees, rock and whatever else blocks the trail. We use hand tools and our own two feet because we’re in a wilderness area. Motorized tools or transportation can’t be used in these areas without a special exemption. So if we go anywhere, we’re going with our own two feet. If we need to cut a tree, it’s with our own two hands. Our crew is a crosscut crew which means that most of the day we’re using those old saws you see lumberjacks running in pictures where each person is on an end, rocking back and forth to make the cut. 

 Our crew works in the backcountry for eight days at a time. We call this a hitch. Each hitch is usually in a different area. After each hitch we have six days off. We are the Westside Canyons crew which means we work in the canyons on the westside of the Bitterroot Valley or the eastside of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

As far as getting our gear in, we usually have pack support for the beginning of each hitch. This means a packer employed by the US Forest Service brings a string of pack mules and bundles most of our shit up and brings it to our camp. From our camp, we bring water, lunch, snacks, first aid and tools and then we hike the trail and cut. We can go anywhere from one mile to 14 in a single day (that’s been our longest day so far). On average we hike around 60 miles in a eight day period.

We bring all of our own food and take turns cooking each night. There’s no showers so that means if you want to get clean, it’s a creek bath. 

That’s all I can think of for now. Hopefully that answers all the damn questions I’ve been getting. As for me, I’m still taking photos, still freelancing and still loving living in Montana.

© Tim Goessman 2022. All rights reserved.
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