First impressions from a Wilderness Ranger Intern


First impressions from a Wilderness Ranger Intern

Matt Wilson..trail view.jpg

By Matthew Wilson 

Making the 180 degree shift from the bustling, loud streets surrounding the city of New Haven, Connecticut to the serene and peaceful rush that comes from sleeping beside a creek, one could imagine my pure joy of being apart of this wonderful organization.  The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation has not only given me an opportunity expand my knowledge and exposure to further pursue a career with the USFS, but it has given me the opportunity to find out what I ought to be doing with my limited time on this Earth.  Knowing that I am enduring long hours stewarding wilderness trails so that others may enjoy them makes me fulfilled to the utmost extent (even if those that explore the Bob at their leisure may not take into account the arduous work that goes into maintaining the wilderness).  There is nothing more relieving/revitalizing than that first shower coming out of the woods because I know that I have worked hard so that others can share the same life changing experiences that I have within the wilderness. Lets just say in layman’s terms, that I am grateful to be a part of something bigger than myself.

View from a horse. Matt Wilson.jpg

I’ve learned to be quite grateful for being given the opportunity and exposure to pack mules and ride horseback into the wilderness.  Not only is this far less of a burden on the backs of the wilderness trail crew, but it’s an experience that not a lot of people can share.  Packing and outfitting is not a common skill to most, which makes it all the more engaging that I get to learn some tricks of the trade. It took me a bit, but I finally got to understand how to properly tie up a mantee around a pack box, how to saddle up a mule and a horse (believe it or not there is a big difference), and most importantly how to ride horseback.  With the help of all the trails crew staff at Lincoln Ranger District I am becoming ever so comfortable with the stock. Its very difficult to describe, but the mannerisms and demeanor to which you handle stock have fully shifted into my normal way of interaction with colleagues and strangers alike. There is a certain degree of compassion mixed with respect that you must show the animals.  You have EARN the animals respect, much like any adult interaction. I find this to be the most interesting aspect to working with the stock because its certainly something that I didn’t expect going into the stock training, but after working with the animals I am happy to say that they have inadvertently helped me take control over my own emotions and increased my individualization.   


Majesty with Maladies 2018- WRI Kris Bosch

A few years ago, my old Montana Conservation Corps crew leader told me: “Nothing is certain in the corps world.” I couldn’t agree more, since the wilderness is naturally a wild and unpredictable place. Some days it can be hard to tell where to camp in the evening, or judge what lies on the trails ahead. Here in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, things don’t always go the way we want them to. Regardless of what happens, we’re still blessed with the chance to bomb around in the Big Beautiful Bob.

My last hitch in the Scapegoat Area might have been my biggest lesson in adaptability, and perseverance. It started off in the Smith Creek area where my partner Adam and I worked with another trail crew clearing a short reroute and later retreading a lot of trails. It was a pleasant first few days, and digging up trails in the hot July sun under Montana’s big blue sky made for a great start to a long and challenging ten-day excursion.

Adam and I finished up with the trail crew, after a solid three days of digging, so we headed deeper into the Scapegoat by riding up and over Welcome Creek Pass and toward Welcome Creek Cabin. We fixed up a couple signs along the way, and later set course toward Scapegoat Mountain. On the way, our happy mood was damped by a crossing at Halfmoon Creek just a few miles away from our camping destination. I slipped on a seemingly safe rock and took a hard dive into the jagged creek bottom. As I stumbled out of the creek bottom, bloodied stream water dripped from my right hand, and a searing pain burned in my fingertips. Seconds passed and I found out a fingernail broke in half. My nail bed was bleeding so intensely, and every nerve ending wouldn’t cease to remind me of the tiny yet tremendous finger trauma.

I finished the hitch still sawing trees and chucking them off trail with nine out of ten of my working fingers, but my bad luck didn’t stop there. My water pouch popped and leaked all over my gear, all my bagels grew extremely moldy, and if that wasn’t bad enough, my injured hand worsened toward the end of the hitch. An allergic reaction to some random plant puffed up my entire right hand to twice its normal size. By day nine I was flipping logs one armed, and tying up loads on mules entirely with my left hand. At moments it felt like I was a man being kicked while already down on the ground!

But with all these maladies and misfortunes, I failed to complain. I was surrounded by epic scenery, such as a the vast Dearborn river valley and the towering limestone walls of Scapegoat Mountain. The powerful support of my partner Adam helped me finish strong, and we reached all of our goals. We had a delightful evening routine where we feast like kings every night, and gorged ourselves with what we called “reckless amounts of food.” Then we slept under starry skies with full bellies and tired bodies. With all that said, I can say that you can bust up my fingers, wreck my hand, ruin my food, and drench my stuff. But if I am bombing around in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, I will forever have a smile on my face.

Life on the Trail Without Packers - WCC Intern Isabella Kalifelz

A life on trail without packers would be monotonous,

Packers are the lifeblood when it comes to getting us out into the Wilderness,


They bring more than just their stories, strength, time and their courageous stock, (some transporting over 100 pound loads for our bulky needs and essential trail working tools)

Without packers, our food certaintly wouldn’t be as plentiful

Our education on stock use would be absent

And our special connection among love for the outdoors and the Bob Marshall Wilderness would’ve never been shared.

Numerous relationships have been built among both Volunteer Packers and Forest Service packers,

As they will continue to build.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, to all Packers giving their time to the BMWF


Sounds and Struggles from a Shakedown Hitch- Poems by WRI Kathryn Hatfield

Sounds and Struggles from a Shakedown Hitch- Poems by WRI Kathryn Hatfield

Sounds, sights, and struggles of a shakedown hitch


Chomp, chomp.


Not on the trail,

and I’m already hungry?


Pout, pout.

Did I really forget my tent stakes,

I guess I’ll blame Ally.


Ha, ha.

Thinking I’d go three days

without coffee.


Creek, crash.

The unyielding wind humored itself

And pushed over a dead tree.


See, saw.

Nothing like bucking rotten wood

on a dew-laden slope.


Drip, drop.

Surely it won’t rain much harder,

I hope.


Oh, *#@&!


Did I really lose my rain fly?

How could I.


Squish, squish.

“Certainly my boots won’t soak through,

right guys?”


Ebb, flow.

And the caressing sounds of the river

cradle me deep into sleep.


Smile, eyes shutting . . .

I think,

I can’t wait to come back out here next week.


Eyes open, slap.

And I’d thought I’d go three days without bug spray

That’s just too long a streak.


When I’ve at last remembered my tent stakes and an adequate supply of coffee grounds

Sights and thoughts from a final hitch


When the mosquitoes have finally quenched their thirst,

When the rain has subsided

And subsided, in fact, for 24 days,

When my muscles no longer ache at the prospect of bearing the burden that is my pack,

When I’ve (finally) learned that two granola bars a day just won’t suffice,

And I’m faced with a mile of dirt path that pulls me to the work day’s closing

With an ominous sky paired with ominous cracking, booming sounds

With a steeply sloping cliff that gives way to a river playing hopscotch amongst the rocks

I am left with the opportunity to claim my own thoughts

To sift through and debate my own ideas


Indeed, the wilderness is not a place

Set to a rigid structure of rules that claim the pristine.

It is not fostered by capitalism and bound by the unyielding destruction of man.


It is an opportunity, a mindset

The capacity to think and act on my own terms

And decide where my own limitations lie.

This mindset, for me

This place is the wilderness.

 'What I am reading this summer' by WCC intern Keegan Widhalm


'What I am reading this summer' by WCC intern Keegan Widhalm

What I’m Reading This Summer


This summer I decided that I was going to read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. For those unfamiliar with this story or Tolkien’s works, The Hobbit is the precursor to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and follows the adventures of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Hobbits are a race of small human-like people who are particularly unadventurous and instead prefer to sit in their homes eating, drinking, and relaxing. Bilbo exhibits all of these qualities but is one day visited by a wizard and group of 13 dwarves who ask him to accompany them to their ancestral homeland and help them reclaim their throne and treasure from a fire-breathing dragon. Along the way, they encounter goblins, elves, giant spiders, and other magic creatures. Now while I haven’t encountered any goblins, elves, or dragons during my time in the Bob so far, I did find a few things that I could relate to from this book.



First is the character of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is someone who really prefers to spend his time relaxing instead of going on adventures. When his adventure does start he is a bit scared and doesn’t know what to expect but eventually is able to do everything that his crew is able to do as well. I could relate to this because before this summer I had never been on any real adventures either. I spent most of my time either at home, at school, and on my family’s farm in the summer. When it was time for my first hitch, I didn’t know what to expect and was a bit nervous since the last time I went camping was probably over a decade ago. However, I settled in pretty quickly and everything has been going smoothly ever since.


rare sunny day on the Devil Creek hitch

The second thing I could relate to came during our second hitch at Devil’s Creek on the Hungry Horse Ranger District. During this hitch, we were constantly rained on and one night while I was laying in my tent cold, wet, and tired and wishing I could be somewhere warm I decided to do some reading before I went to bed. I opened my book and began reading a chapter in which Bilbo and the dwarves are walking through the forest while being pounded by rain. They are cold, wet, and tired and Bilbo is continually thinking about his home and longing to be there sitting next to the fire with something warm to drink. I had never related so much to a story and found it funny that Bilbo and I were sharing the same feelings and I just happened to be reading about it at that particular moment.

The final thing that I could relate to came during our latest hitch over on the Rocky Mountain Ranger District. During this hitch, many of the days reached close to 90 degrees and felt almost like we were being attacked by a fire-breathing dragon. Our camp, however, had a creek next to it that we could jump into and cool down at the end of the day. This felt similar to the end of The Hobbit when the dragon… well actually maybe I won’t spoil it for you.


I didn’t envision when I started reading this story that I could relate to so many things from it. Bilbo’s unexpected journey coincided with mine and made me appreciate the story even more. It is a great read for long, adventurous outings and has become one of my new favorites. I’d definitely recommend taking it with you on your next adventure and maybe you’ll find something that you relate to as well.





HR 1349: Thoughtful consideration

HR 1349: Thoughtful consideration


For the past twenty years, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation has been connecting Americans with their wilderness heritage by providing access to and stewardship of one of the world’s most spectacular places- Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. We help hundreds of hard working volunteers, including youth, develop a land ethic and give back to the wilderness by opening trails, restoring heavily used areas, maintaining historic structures and fighting weeds. 

Every summer, our organization leads over 40 volunteer trail crews into the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness to accomplish this work. 

The Board of Directors of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation adamantly opposes HR1349, which would allow mountain bikes and other wheeled vehicles in designated Wilderness. After thoughtful consideration, we oppose this legislation for several reasons: 

  • First and foremost, HR 1349 is contrary to the spirit and intent of the Wilderness Act, which specifically prohibits mechanized transport. The framers of the Act intended to preserve vestiges of primitive America that shaped our national identity.  Like many others, they did not want the trappings of civilization to intrude on every acre of our nation.

  • Second, the Wilderness Act allows access for everyone to enjoy these special places.  It simply specifies modes of transportation that are allowed.

  • Third, it has been suggested that the Wilderness Act does not prohibit the use of mountain bikes and that the Forest Service arbitrarily implemented the restriction.  This is simply not true. Section 4.C Prohibitions states in part “and no other form of mechanical transport.”  It should be noted that the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service all banned bicycles on Wilderness lands that they managed from the beginning. 

  • Fourth, allowing or prohibiting mountain bikes would presumably be at the discretion of local land managers.  Oddly, this does not appear in the text of HR 1349, nor is it clear if managers would be tasked with allowing or prohibiting such use.  If this is the case, there is no easier way to insure endless litigation as decisions are made one at a time. 

  • Fifth, HR 1349 would set a precedent for other legislation that could further degrade Wilderness.  What other groups might seek exceptions for their perceived needs?  Motorcycle riders, pilots, snowmobilers and electric bike riders?  Wilderness managers and stewards use mechanical and motorized transport and motorized equipment only on rare occasions and only after a careful analysis of alternatives and impacts; why are we providing exceptions for toys? 

  • Sixth, Wilderness, as it is, has true economic value in the tourists it draws to enjoy these pristine areas away from the distractions of civilization. Only 2% of America is designated protected Wilderness.  Wilderness is not just about recreation but has been said to be a necessary part of the human spirit.  We must to remain committed to safeguarding these few destinations and experiences. 

  • Seventh, many mountain bikers, locally and nationally. do not support allowing bicycles in Wilderness.  The International Mountain Biking Association is not in support of bicycles in Wilderness.  Their statements suggest their satisfaction honoring the sanctity of the Wilderness. In their words, they have plenty of miles of trail to enjoy. 

  • Finally, there is a real safety concern with mixing mountain bikes and horses on wilderness trails that are often narrow and on steep terrain.  We partner closely with groups such as the Back Country Horsemen of Montana and US Forest Service pack strings to achieve our trail work. The Foundation could not do our work without stock support.  The safety and well being of all of our packers is a priority for us.  There are 14,300 members of the Back Country Horsemen of America nationwide who help federal agencies and nonprofits such as ours care for the Wilderness. They share our opposition to HR 1349.

 We strongly urge you to actively oppose HR 1349 and to encourage your colleagues to do likewise. It will benefit only a few while degrading the few truly wild areas we have left in the United States. It is bad for Wilderness, bad for the nation and bad for Montana.

 For those not familiar with the intrinsic values and power of Wilderness viewing the video “3 Miles an Hour” may be helpful.

 Furthermore, we encourage you to work with the mountain bike community and federal, state and local agencies to identify and develop alternatives for mountain bike areas outside designated Wilderness. In Montana alone there are millions of acres of federal land outside the Wilderness system. 


The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation's Board of Directors and Staff

Intern Update: Coming Full Circle with Fresh Eyes

Intern Update: Coming Full Circle with Fresh Eyes

Being a Wilderness Ranger Intern in the Bob Marshall Wilderness has definitely helped me learn about and appreciate the complex nature of wild places. It has also reconnected me to lessons learned through experience as a child. So in many ways, the Bob Marshall Wilderness brings you full circle with fresh eyes.

Breaking Trail; an update from a Wilderness Ranger Intern

Breaking Trail; an update from a Wilderness Ranger Intern

"Each day spent out in the woods I appreciate the fact that I am aiding in the preservation of this wild earth and the history intertwined. Because of this work, hundreds of people can experience solitude, hiking along maintained trails and camping at preserved campsites. In turn, they can acknowledge just how special wilderness areas are, especially the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex." Read more of Danielle's Field Season report here. 

Wilderness Conservation Crew takes on Headquarters Pass

Wilderness Conservation Crew takes on Headquarters Pass

This hitch wasn’t just a Wilderness Conservation Corps work party.  Trail crew leader Rebecca Kambic and a six (6) BMWF volunteers joined us as we trekked up Headquarters Pass in hopes of seeing mountain goats (oh, and to do some work too).  The hike to the top was short but steep and breathtakingly beautiful with waterfalls, ridges, and mountain views all around.  Once we got to camp, we wasted no time setting up our backcountry kitchen, tents, and exploring the surrounding area.

Look out Rio 2016, here we come!

Look out Rio 2016, here we come!

As I swung my pick for the hundredth time that day into the rocky hillside above trail 402, I was startled by shouts from my WCC crewmates. The commotion was a reaction to the rather large, rounded rock Trevor had dug up from the trail and was cradling in his arms with no safe place to put it beside the trail on the steep slope. The crew watched intently as Trevor adjusted his stance, shifted the rock backwards, then forwards, and released it over the beargrass-blanketed slope. It rolled and bounced its way toward the drainage below—the target—all the while picking up speed as our eager whoops and hollers egged it on. A final bound sent the rock soaring through the air until it crashed into the creek with a satisfying “thud.” The crowd went wild!

The Thrill of New Adventures

The Thrill of New Adventures

On July 30th I woke up to the thrill of new adventures. The WCC’s 4th hitch was only hours away and I couldn’t be more excited to enter the Scapegoat Wilderness for the first time. Having previously spent trail day with the Lincoln District, it was nice for me to be working with some familiar faces knowing that we would all work well together.


Growing up in Wilderness

I had a pick mattock, but that does not mean that I knew how to use it. The summer before I had stolen it from a local campground with a good friend of mine, a move I do not regret. The pick sat in my car for a year before it was more than a conquest. It took time for the pick to become something to me, something more than a stolen good and more than a tool. Even when I finally learned to swing a pick correctly and with purpose I did not understand where it would take me. Now I look at that pick and I am reminded of who I am and why I am here and where I am going, and what all of that means.