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.