|Skiing Snow Bowl in the Lolo National Forest circa 1978. Note cheap ski attire ... wool pants and mittens.|
|Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness circa 1979|
I'll never forget the first time I visited a national forest. I was 16 years old, a junior at Minnetonka High School (Minnesota), and a good friend had invited me to travel to Red Lodge, Montana with his family over Christmas vacation. It wasn't a great snow year, at least in December. And I had brand new skis, Dynamic Freestyle 180 cm, for hot dogging around the resort.
We skied Red Lodge Mountain and absolutely shredded our skis from hitting rocks -- multiple cuts through the petex layer to the core. Damn! The metal edges were trashed. But we were there for a week. My buddy's brother suggested we go hiking in the nearby Beartooth Mountains in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest.
We drove up to a trailhead, saw a sign for a trail, and took off. Coming from the suburbs of Minneapolis, I couldn't believe that there was no entrance fee or parking fee. You could just show up and go! It was FREE! And I was FREE! It just blew my mind!
We hiked up the trail a ways, found a spot next to the creek and built a fire. We hung out all afternoon, and I just loved it. Montana was for me!
I ended up going to the University of Montana as an 18-year-old and totally immersed myself in the outdoors. I climbed peaks, paddled rivers, backpacked everywhere in NW Montana, skied Snow Bowl, Big Mountain, Bridger Bowl, and rode my road bike to Lolo Pass and on century rides. I felt like I was living! I saw grizzly tracks, bull moose, bull elk and bald eagles. We explored the Mission Mountains, the Rattlesnake, the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, all very close to Missoula. All of those areas are in the national forest system.
My captivation with the mountains and nature completely changed my life. It steered me down the path of getting a journalism and history degree at Montana and led to a fulfilling career as an environmental/outdoor/natural resources writer, author and video producer. My passion for the outdoors has always been a vital part of my life with my partner Wendy and our kids as well.
It's a gift that keeps on giving -- as long as we have our public lands!
On Saturday, at 11 a.m., there's a major Public Lands Rally at the Statehouse to make a very important and spirited statement to our elected officials in Idaho and Washington D.C. that we want to keep our federal lands and national wildlife refuges in federal hands -- the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While those agencies have their issues, trying to transfer ownership to the states is a wrong-headed idea that has no legal merit.
The state of Idaho can't afford to take ownership of 32 million acres of federal lands in our state -- that's 20M acres of Forest Service land and 12M acres of BLM land. One mega forest fire or range fire would break the state budget. It costs $435M for the feds to manage their lands in Idaho. Knowing the state can't afford to manage the lands, the agenda of state takeover advocates would be to eventually sell off our public lands to greedy developers, oil and gas interests, etc. That's the big hidden bugaboo with the state takeover campaign.
The Public Lands Rally is being co-sponsored by the who's who of Idaho's outdoor conservation organizations, including the Idaho Conservation League, Conservation Voters of Idaho, Trout Unlimited, Wilderness Society, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and many more.
Put on a funny outdoorsy costume and make yourself heard! The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, see the ICL events page.
Also on Saturday, the Les Bois Film Festival, a fundraiser for the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, will be offering an afternoon and an evening show this year. I highly recommend it. The afternoon session starts at 2 p.m., so you could go to the Public Lands Rally and then head over to watch some great short films about nature. See the event schedule for details about the films.
Here's a link to the trailer for the event.
If the weather cooperates this weekend, and you're up for a hike, try scaling Cervidae Peak near Lucky Peak. It's featured in my Boise Trail Guide. It's 2 miles straight up, and 2 miles down, 2,000 vertical feet of climbing. Great workout! Take a pair of hiking poles with you. The hike is in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, so be aware that it's winter deer and elk range. Leave dogs at home.