An excerpt from my trail journals – rj
September 13, Montana
“To countless people, the wilderness provides ultimate delight because it provides the thrills of jeopardy and beauty. It is the last stand for that glorious adventure into the physically unknown.” – Bob Marshall, Founder of the Wilderness Society
“Rule number one is you don’t negotiate with a group of users who basically say, ‘If you don’t give us what we want, we’re going to take it,’ because that is condoning and encouraging lawbreaking. Imagine if poachers made that argument with state fish and game agencies about elk,” Koehler said. “Rule number two is you don’t compromise away, through collaboration, pieces of the landscape that are irreplaceable and should not be open for barter. Rule number three: if you couldn’t trust the Forest Service before and you had to haul the agency into court to do its job, what makes you think things will be better this time around?” – Shannon Borders, Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman (source)
We left Bozeman this morning for a quick trip on the Crest, to (a) Windy Pass.
This area is confined inside the boundary of a Wilderness Study Area. That means it’s protected (sort of, at least in the short term) from motorized use and has the potential to be designated as Wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964.
On my last trip in what is now this WSA, I encountered motorbikes on the Crest. I happened to be on a mountain bike at the time. Riding the Crest on an MTB was great. Seeing and hearing motorcycles on the Crest was not great. Now that I’m visiting this area again without the intrusion of motorized or mechanized rides, I have to admit that I like it better without. Don’t get me wrong, I love mountain biking, especially in scenic locations, and I treasure the opportunity I had years ago to ride on the Crest, but I’m pretty sure I’m willing to give up the privilege (it’s hard to see this as my “right”) to ride in exchange for more designated Wilderness.
Update: 2021. In spite of the fact that court orders have banned motorized and mechanized use from much of this wilderness in order to preserve its character as a WSA, pro-mechanized and pro-motorized use activity continues – unenforced. In addition, land management agencies turn a blind eye to the use and acknowledges the issue as “complicated” due to “historical use”. Needless to say, neither motorized nor mechanized use here qualifies as “historical” under the Wilderness Act – facts that have already been acknowledged by previous land management agency directors and the courts.
After a bumpy ride up the upper reaches of the rocky trailhead approach road near a chic town where ski Bums have been bumped out by Billionaires, we arrived at the trailhead and saddled up.
The trail came with a little bit of everything: mud, snow, icicles frozen on logs across the streams, bear tracks…
We arrived at the cabin and ate lunch before exploring the area under blue skies.
I followed an edge between forest and meadow through tundra and tussocks, springs and bogs. The fall grasses, devoid of the moisture and greenery of their summer state, crunched underfoot. A cold breeze, the occasional snow patch, and no more weekend crowds signaled the dawn of a new season up here.
Upon reaching the Crest I tuned my long-range vision to the skyline to the north, where a large tan mass was meandering three-quarters of a mile away. Behind her, a smaller brown ball of fur sauntered along in sync. Mom had big shoulders, a dished snout, and a confident swagger and seemed to be intent upon getting to a stand of whitebark pine a few hundred yards in front of her.
I returned to the cabin.
We spent the afternoon reading, writing, talking, laughing, eating, taking photos, and playing cards.
I made a pot of coffee, snacked on salted black licorice, and fell asleep in the warmth of the afternoon sun, recovering from some very late nights of working this week.
I didn’t sleep long – maybe 20 minutes – but woke up to grasses turning golden in the late-day light and the satisfaction that comes with seeing a couple of high school kids unwind and cast off the stress that comes with intense schedules dominated by school and extracurricular activities. It’s a joy to see the Wild do its work like only the Wild can do.
Two more joined our party in the evening and we enjoyed the camaraderie of cooking dinner and eating together, talking about the animals that hang out in this area, and watching the sunset over the Madison Range to the west.
We retired into the cabin to escape the very un-summer-like temperature drop that came with the setting sun, fired up the woodstove, and played hearts until the faint orange hue of the Milky Way replaced the purple horizon of dusk.
I bundled up and retired to my tarp pitched 50 yards away. In minutes the cabin becomes eerily dark and quiet. Rest came easy to these guys tonight, and I can no longer keep my own eyes open.
Reflections: Oct. 28, 2021 – I wrote this journal entry more than seven years ago. As I reflect on the experience, the memories remain crystal clear. Re-discovering these notes reminded me about how important documenting my journeys is for me. It was never about social media sharing (and the negative consequences that come with it), or telling the world “I’ve been here – kilroy…” (flag-planting), or publishing some false sense of “accomplishment” – but of simply making a memory, writing it down, and reflecting on it later. As I grow into middle-age (admittedly, I started this process a few years ago…), these reflections become incredibly important. That’s why this is posted in blogs/commentary and not trip reports. It’s my encouragement to young people:
Don’t forget about the benign moments of the past. The memories you create now will bring you great joy in the future.
Disclaimer: The author owns two mountain bikes and enjoys riding in scenic areas. The author is passionately committed to preserving human-powered, non-mechanized, non-motorized travel as exclusive activities in designated Wilderness.