Fighting Blister Rust and Wildfires Story and photos by Lee Townsend “Let’s go! Fire!” The call from below echoed across the hillside where we were spread out in individual lanes marked by white twine. These lanes going up the hill … Continue reading →
Category Archives: forestry
Teenagers Who Forged Our Wilderness Hikes By Dan Eaton Photos courtesy of Dan Eaton When you read the logs of backcountry trips in the Big Horn Crags area of the Salmon River Mountains, they describe Beaver Slide Trail as beautiful … Continue reading →
Fighting for the Forest Service By Mike Blackbird The devastating wildfires of 2015 burned more than 740,000 acres in Idaho, and when fire season came around again in 2016, I was reminded of the infamous 1910 forest fire. Its history … Continue reading →
Photo Courtesy of Annette Barton This photo from 1938 shows the original Heavens Gate fire lookout tower in the Seven Devils Mountains above Hells Canyon. It comes from the Lenora Hibbs Barton collection held by my late father, Ralph … Continue reading →
On September 30, 1950, I was an eight-year-old University of Idaho football junkie, living in Lewiston, bleeding, bleeding Vandal silver and gold. September 30 was to be my day. There would be no bleeding whatsoever, only excitement. Five days earlier, Mom had told me I would be going with my father Stan to my first college game. Dad usually went with Bill, Curly, or Louie—sometimes all of them, sometimes only one or two—but today it was just me.
Television had not yet arrived in the Idaho Panhandle, so I listened to every Vandal game on the radio, and the next morning I read the recap in the Sunday paper. Bob Curtis was the voice of the Vandals, who I figured had announced and would announce every one of the team’s football games from the beginning of time until the end of the world. Through him I knew the Vandal colors, their fight song, their record, who coached, who played where and when. On this day, Idaho was to play Montana State University, a team we were on even terms with. Back then, the Vandals were members of the old Pacific Coast Conference. They played a full schedule in basketball, but in football they played only the teams from the Northwest, the two Washington schools and the two Oregon schools. Winning against the conference schools was tough to do, and I bled plenty, but against the Montana schools the odds were about fifty-fifty.
Mom spent most of Friday preparing food for Saturday. Southern fried chicken topped the menu, cooked the way only Mom knew, dipped in bread crumbs, flour, and egg, and then slowly fried and seasoned as the day moved along. At our house, fried chicken was always served with potato salad made of Idaho russets, free-range eggs, mayo, onion, greens, olives, pickles, and a dash of mustard. I knew this was where the phrase, “finger lickin’ good” must have originated. We ate plenty on Friday night, when the chicken was still warm. Early Saturday morning, Mom filled the cooler with ice, chicken, potato salad, beer, soft drinks, potato chips, dip, chocolate chip cookies, and some candy. And then it was nine o’clock. Continue reading →
Day seven of pulling a crosscut saw to clear trail in the wilderness presented our final challenge—to cut enough of the seemingly endless deadfall to matter. As we hiked up the trail in the early light, the crew again rallied. With the morning warming, three crosscut saws sang across the forest as sharp teeth bit down into logs, propelled by the cadence of pumping, paired arms. I bumped ahead on the advance team, swinging a Pulaski or ax-adze combination tool, chopping limbs, smacking wood, preparing logs for the saws’ bite.
Rain at lunch break didn’t slow us down. The fresh wet only cooled us before we went back out and hit the trail hard, knocking off logs, jumping ahead for the next downed tree. Late in the afternoon, facing our last hour at work, I pushed out front to chop small stuff and ready big logs. Through a tangle of fallen lodgepole pine, I spotted the welcome sight of another cut log at the other side. We reached our goal of connecting two stretches of cut-out trail in the wilderness.
We’d cut out six miles of trail in a week, sawing and chopping more than a thousand logs in the wide expanse of the wilderness. It felt like a triumph. We hiked back to camp along the undulating trail, looking at our fine finished work, striding fast with a bounce. Satisfaction capped a tough job, and accomplishment overcame exhaustion. A week in the wilderness of Idaho is always an adventure. A week spent reopening an almost-lost trail enhances the challenges and the rewards of being in the wilderness. Continue reading →