Wilderness Monitoring Trip
By Ryan and Owen
10:00 A.M, 21 September 2012: The group met outside the Motor Pool, ready to head to the Middle Fork Judith Wilderness Study Area. We split into our respective vehicles and hit the road. Along the way, we stopped at a few gas stations, loading up on chocolate, candy, and chips, ensuring that we had the right hiking food in us.
Finally, we made it to the trail head sometime in the afternoon, and quickly hiked a meager two miles to our campsite. The view from the ridge was pretty slick. We picked a spot for dinner, threw up our bear hangs, and sat down to a delicious meal of curry. After we had our fill, we sunk into our cozy sleeping bags, some choosing to sleep out under the stars.
In the morning, we broke up into two groups, one taking the official route, the other taking a non-system route. The first group led by Evan headed down the ridge, in search for the trail. Pat and Sarah's group didn't have much luck finding any real trails, and were forced to turn back early. After a 10 mile hike, Evan's group reunited with the others, just in time to prepare dinner.
During the trek, both groups learned how to collect data used to determine wilderness character. This is done by observing things along the trail that effect wilderness character. Some examples include development, sounds of interest, noxious weeds, and certain wildlife. This information is then entered in to a GPS unit. We also use topographic maps to record the location of our sightings.
That night, we discussed the purpose behind wilderness character monitoring and how the data can be used by land agencies and other interested parties. Once the sun went down, Evan entertained us with his Japanese folk tales. We also heard a traditional Blackfeet story from Tom. In spite of this night being colder than previous, more of us ventured outside our tents to sleep outside.
Before we packed our things on Sunday, we took a few minutes to learn about the duties and challenges of wilderness managers. The hike back to the vehicles flew by and before we knew it, we were back in Missoula. Thanks to our leaders for teaching us about wilderness character monitoring and making it interesting and fun. Overall, it was a great trip.