Hauling across the state in a Forest Service vehicle, I wasn't sure what awaited me at our destination. Having completed several fulfilling minutes of thorough research by the grace of Wikipedia, I found my near future work site to hold just as much curiousity as it did mystery. With more grizzly bears than anywhere in the United States, except Alaska, the Bob Marshall Wilderness is amillion and a half acres of untamed, near pristine wilderness of the northern Rockies of western Montana. And I was getting paid to go there.
We met up at the firelab in Missoula joining the rest of the crew to make the drive to the Blackfoot river trailhead. Waiting for us there were our pack animals, horses and sampling gear. Loading up each mule with 80 to 90 pounds per saddle bag, each carrying two, added a new level of adventure for me as far as packing into a campsite goes.
Soon to be Dr. Nick Povak and I headed up the trail to hike the seven miles in to our camp, following the dusty trail along the river valley, surveying old fire damage from a holocaust fire that ripped through the Bob in'88 and other in 2001 and 2007. Looking at a topo map before the trip it was exactly as picturesque as I had imagined.
Nick decided that every day, the Bob had a treat for us. The views, the wildlife, the sunsets, the day's hike, were all inclusive of something amazing to see and experience each day we were there. The stars, and the Northern Lights were some of my favorites.
Hiking to our sites everyday was spectacular itself, althought some of our sites were less than cordial. Young lodgepole pine stands grow thick, and close together, especially after fires, since that is how they reproduce. But stopping everyday to eat lunch, I had to imagine how many people in the world are as lucky to eat lunch in some of the places I have been able to.
The Bob is a rugged place. It's a wild place, I was reminded of this in so many ways from the terrain, to the weather, to seeing the grizzly a few hundred feet from camp. I felt I only experienced the tip of the iceberg for what Montana has to offer and can't wait to go back.
Check out the Gallery for alot more, and a video to come.