Volunteers armed with shovels and picks remove clusters of houndstongue from a high elevation meadow in the Raggeds Wilderness on the Gunnison and White River National Forests. (U.S. Forest Service/Dan Gray)
The Raggeds Wilderness, a nearly 65,000-acre area on the Gunnison and White River National Forests near Paonia, Colorado, is prime elk habitat with herd numbers in the hundreds.
Acres of undisturbed coniferous forests are interspersed with open slopes of wet meadows thick with grasses and sedges, a nutritious diet for elk needing to fatten up for the winter. But houndstongue, a purple-flowered invasive weed that takes root alongside nutritious plants, is toxic to elk. Read more »
David Warnack, a district ranger on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, has a deep, even poetic connection to the wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)
For most of his 16 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Dave Warnack spent them boots-on-the-ground. That’s to say that he does not just talk the talk.
“Wilderness will be the ultimate index by which I measure my status, progress and overall place in the world,” Warnack says in the film “Wilderness: The Ultimate Yardstick. “I say this because when you enter a wilderness alone, unsupported, you quickly realize that the wilderness doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about the grades you got in school. It doesn’t care about your medals, your degrees or the size of your salary. The first time you measure yourself by the yardstick of wilderness, you may quickly find that you are, indeed, very small and perhaps inconsequential.” Read more »
Arthur Carhart believed this area should be protected for its pristine qualities. Trappers Lake was protected in 1975 under the Flat Tops Wilderness area designation. (U.S. Forest Service/Roger Poirier)
In 1919, landscape architect Arthur Carhart made his first journey to Colorado’s Trappers Lake and the Flat Top Wilderness. His idea of keeping natural areas of beauty free from development inspired the Forest Service to be the first natural resource agency to push for designated wilderness areas.
The grandeur of the area recently inspired Forest Service employees from the White River National Forest to retrace Carhart’s 25-mile hike through the wilderness across trails with names like Wall Lake and Trappers Lake to the Cradle of Wilderness on their way to the lake. Like many a hiker who visits wilderness areas, they were inspired by the variety of experiences they encountered during their pilgrimage. Read more »
The daunting task of removing a fallen tree on the Olympic National Forest is best tackled with a partner. Two Washington Trails Association members work together using a cross-cut saw, which takes special training and a fine touch. (Courtesy Meg MacKenzie/Washington Trails Association)
The crosscut saw, once a symbol for conquering the wild forests of the west in order to provide lumber for America’s cities, now endures as a symbol of wilderness preservation in our national forests.
The crosscut saw reached prominence in the United States between 1880 and 1930, but quickly became obsolete when power saws started being mass produced. The passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 has helped restore the dying art of primitive tool use by effectively requiring their use in wilderness trail maintenance. Read more »
A fall dusting hints that winter is coming to the high country at Charlia Pass in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the Olympic National Forest. The pass offers breathtaking views of Mt. Constance, Del Monte Ridge and Charlie Lake. (U.S. Forest Service)
As I reach the pinnacle of this stretch of trail my heart is racing, my calves are burning, and my face is dripping with perspiration. I feel strong. I remove the pack from my aching shoulders and grab my water bottle. I am refreshed as I gulp it down. This is sweet mountain water that will eventually trickle down to taps in the city below. Up here, it’s clear and icy cold and the only type of water I have consumed during my five-day wilderness experience.
I lower the bottle from my mouth to admire my accomplishments. The top of the mountain pass has rewarded me with spectacular views of surrounding peaks. I feel alone, but not forlorn. I unravel the contents of my pack and begin to set up my final camp. Read more »
Bob Steelquist retired from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in May 2014 after a long public-service career that also included the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. He lives on the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State, and recently began his second career as a volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service. (Courtesy Bob Steelquist). Forest Service photo.
After nearly 32 years of combined federal and state natural resource management public service, I retired.
I have been blessed with a rewarding career. But before that final day working in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary arrived, I had already applied for and been accepted as a volunteer wilderness ranger in the Pasayten Wilderness of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State. It was the best promotion of my career. Read more »