2024 Wilderness Immersion Signup

Volunteer Trail Work Project

2024 Wilderness Immersion Signup

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This 3-week trip is designed to provide volunteers with an opportunity to be completely immersed in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. We will backpack in, with pack support, and work to help clear a remote section of the Idaho Centennial Trail starting at Windy Saddle on the south end and ending at Moose Creek Ranger station on the north end. The distance between trailheads is about 28 miles, and we’ll backpack to move camp as we move up the trail. We expect to find lots of downed trees so progress could be slow. We’ll carry all our gear, food, and tools and do our own cooking. We will be resupplied once during this trip and have the chance to send out trash or unneeded gear from the first part of the trip.

This section of the ICT may be some of the toughest for hikers to navigate on the whole 1000-mile trail because of downed trees and thick brush after 2017 wildfires burned much of the area. Opening this section is not just a benefit for long-distance hikers (who greatly appreciate our efforts); these trails will be used by equestrians, hunters, and backpackers once clear! This is an area of focus for the Forest, and ITA has been working on these trails and others coming up from the Selway River for several years.

Because of the unique nature of this long project and the remote location, we ask interested volunteers to fill out an application. We want volunteers to be successful on this project, so the crew will be meeting monthly to cover everything about this project and the ins and outs of extended backcountry living.

Project information is subject to change. ITA and crew leaders will communicate via email. Failure to respond to your crew leader may result in being dropped from the project. See our FAQs, reach out to your crew leader, or contact ITA staff at trails@idahotrailsassociation.org if you have questions.

Trails: Archer Trail #526, Moose Ridge Trail #562

Itinerary: In the months leading up to this project, volunteers will attend monthly Zoom check-in calls. Saturday, July 20th, the crew will carpool to Windy Saddle to be dropped off. Sunday the packer will bring the crew into their first camp at Long Prairie Creek. For the duration of the project, volunteers will be backpacking and doing trail work, with periodic days off. Camp will be moved as needed. On August 9th we’ll hike down to Moose Creek to fly out on the 10th. The crew will need to collaborate to arrange a ride to the trailhead at the beginning and home from the airport at the end (most likely McCall or Kooskia but will depend on where volunteers live). We’ll discuss these logistics during our Zoom meeting as well.

Food Provided by ITA: No

Minimum Age to apply: Anyone 16 or older is encouraged to apply. Must have parent consent to join for any volunteers under the age of 18.

Crew Leader: Alisa Rettschlag and Anne Poinier

Trail Map: Click for trail map from beginning to end with the elevation profile, with the bulk of the work expected here.

Application Information – Applications are due April 15. ITA staff and crew leads will process and inform volunteers in April if they are selected as a candidate. If you are not selected as a candidate, you may become an alternate.

Please read through the following checklist and make sure you can answer “yes” to each question before applying for the Wilderness Immersion Experience. These experience requirements are meant to help ensure the trip is safe and memorable for everyone! The Selway Bitterroot is both remote and rugged, and this trip is not designed to be a first-time backpacking trip.

  • I have been on a longer self-supported backpacking trip that involved hiking at least 6 miles per day, on average, over varied terrain.
  • I am able to organize, pack, and carry my own backpack, with all of my personal belongings and my share of group tools, for up to a week at a time.
  • I am physically fit enough, and will be at the start of the trip, to walk up to 10 miles carrying a fully loaded backpack (up to 50 pounds), plus trail tools in hand.
  • I am able and willing to be away from regular communication and modern conveniences for three weeks. I understand there will be no way to leave the trip early other than out of necessity because of injury or other extenuating circumstance.
  • I am able to commit to a monthly Zoom call (April, May, June) with all crew members to discuss safety, logistics, food, gear, etc.

If you are unsure about the proper gear or about preparing for a trip, please reach out to trails@idahotrailsassociation.org.

Difficulty Rating

The difficulty on the project is not so much the distance or work, but the duration of the experience!

Experience with backpacking and being in good hiking condition with broken-in and tested gear is mandatory for this project. This is a remote backcountry project so injuries such as sprains and blisters or even extreme fatigue from not being properly conditioned can quickly become a big safety issue. It is expected that volunteers will begin training for this project upon acceptance.

You will be asked to prepare three weeks’ worth of backcountry meals prior to leaving. Crew leaders will help advise during the pre-trip meetings, but ultimately you are responsible for your food.

You will be spending three weeks with no access to any normal comforts, no hot showers or bathrooms, sleeping on the ground, rain or shine, etc. It will be awesome and life-changing!

You will be out of direct contact with friends and family for three full weeks. In an emergency, either at home or in the field, there is no quick way to return to civilization. If there were an emergency, crew leaders will have satellite messengers to coordinate evacuation if necessary.

Flexibility is also very important, as trail projects of this length rarely go perfectly according to “Plan A”. You will be expected to work together as a crew and, if necessary, through InReach contact with the Forest Service and ITA staff, to help brainstorm solutions and overcome obstacles as a team.

Hike: 5/5 Very Strenuous- The project stays mostly between 6,000 and 7,000 feet until we pass Moose Ridge where the trail descends quickly to the Selway River. Lots of hiking carrying heavy packs and tools. See the linked map for the elevation profile.

Project Work: 5/5 Very Strenuous- Lots of trees and brush expected for repeated saw work. Some heavy lifting or digging. Traveling long distances.

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